Pace, agent trying to facilitate trade to Texans

Orlando Pace's days as the franchise player of the St. Louis Rams appear to be coming to an end.

With a Wednesday deadline in place to get a long-term contract with the Rams, Pace and his new agent, Kennard McGuire, flew to Houston on Monday to visit the Texans. Their goal: to facilitate a trade that would end his eight-year career as the Rams' left tackle.

The Texans took Pace to dinner Monday night. They plan to talk to the Rams in the next 48 hours about a possible trade that might involve the 13th pick in the first round of the April draft and more. If they agree to the terms of a trade, the Texans would have no problem reaching a contract agreement with Pace.

The Rams have franchised Pace for three consecutive years. Under terms of that designation, the Rams have until Wednesday to work out a long-term contract and regain the ability to franchise a player in 2006. Any long agreement reached between Wednesday and July 15 would cost St. Louis its franchise tag for the length of that contract.

Pace and the Rams have been discussing a long-term deal for the past two weeks. At different points during the past month, there have been thoughts that the Rams would either trade Pace or that the former Ohio State offensive lineman would ask to be traded.

The fact that Pace spent the day in Houston shows that he is willing to move on. It's his right as an unsigned franchise player to visit other teams and talk contract, but the timing of Monday's visit signifies questions in his mind whether he can get a long-term deal done with the Rams.

The 29-year-old former first-round pick recently hired McGuire and Fletcher Smith two weeks ago after not being represented by an agent since the middle of the season. McGuire, who accompanied Pace on the trip to Houston, was unavailable for comment.

The Rams would have to receive two first-round picks if Pace signs an offer sheet, but if Pace intends to leave the Rams for the Texans, it would be more likely the sides would have to work out a trade for a first-round choice and something in addition. At the scouting combine in Indianapolis, the New York Giants and a couple other teams heard initial inquiries from the Rams about the possibility of trading Pace.

Those thoughts died down when Pace hired his new agents. The Rams were excited about Pace hiring agents in time to do a long-term contract before the start of their offseason program.

Pace was the first selection in the 1997 draft. He signed his first contract Aug. 16 after a long holdout. He's been to two Super Bowls and two Pro Bowls as a Ram.

The 6-foot-7, 325-pound Pace played his college ball at Ohio State.

John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.