Former Falcon knows his nickel packages

Updated: October 28, 2004, 11:21 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

In their seemingly never-ending search for depth in the secondary, the St. Louis Rams have signed veteran free agent defensive back Tod McBride, released earlier this month by the Seattle Seahawks.

Tod McBride
McBride

The sixth-year veteran, who signed a one-year contract for the league minimum salary prorated over the balance of the season, becomes the latest in a string of players added in an attempt to bolster a problem area. St. Louis officials hope that, with his pedigree as a career nickel and dime performer, McBride will fare better than the others.

McBride, 28, has played in sub defenses virtually his entire career, although he started the final nine games of the 2003 season for the Atlanta Falcons, and has been an excellent performer most times in that role.

If he merely gets on the field and contributes, he will have done better than most of the others who preceded him in St. Louis already this season.

The laundry list of veteran defensive backs who either signed with the Rams or agreed to contract terms includes Tom Knight, Zack Bronson, Jason Sehorn, Kwamie Lassiter and Justin Lucas. The Rams also chose Jason Shivers in the fifth round of the draft, feeling he could fill a "dime" role, but he didn't play well enough in the preseason to win a roster spot and is instead on the team's practice squad.

Perpetually injured Knight was hurt in camp, placed on injured reserve, then released. Bronson suffered a season-ending injury, and Sehorn, who played with the Rams last season, failed his physical examination because of a foot problem. Lassiter played in three games in a dime role and on specials teams, collecting 11 tackles, but was released last week when cornerback Travis Fisher returned from rehabilitating a broken forearm he sustained in preseason. Originally released by the Rams in camp, Lucas was re-signed by the club during a spate of injuries and remains on the roster in a backup role.

There is at least circumstantial evidence, though, to suggest McBride can help to settle the Rams' secondary alignments on third down.

The former UCLA standout has appeared in 73 games, with 19 starts, and has posted 198 tackles, six interceptions and 26 passes defensed. He played the first four seasons of his career in Green Bay, where he was the Packers' top extra defensive back, then moved to Atlanta in 2003. For the Falcons last season, he had career highs in tackles (29) and interceptions (three), with six passes defensed.

McBride suffered a bout of tendinitis in his knee this summer, which kept him out of camp practices, and Falcons coach Jim Mora released him only because he did not have a good enough read on how the veteran might fit in with the team and with the new defense that was being installed. McBride then signed with Seattle, was inactive for three games and was released.

Two elements that should help both McBride and the Rams: The team has its bye this week, so McBride will have some time to absorb the defense. And while McBride has mostly played cornerback in the past, he also has lined up inside in nickel packages, which is where St. Louis needs help.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.