Rams sign Butler to four-year deal

Updated: March 10, 2009, 8:43 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

After pursuing him for the first two weeks of free agency, the St. Louis Rams have reached a four-year agreement with strong safety James Butler, who played the first four seasons of his career with the New York Giants before becoming an unrestricted veteran.

The contract, confirmed by team and league sources, is expected to be officially signed on Tuesday. Financial details of the deal were not yet available.

The move, which has been rumored since the outset of the free agency signing period, reunites Butler with new head coach Steve Spagnuolo. The Rams' coach was the Giants defensive coordinator for Butler's last two years with the Giants.

Butler should provide a physical presence to the interior of the St. Louis secondary. He is expected to replace recently released strong safety Corey Chavous and likely join free safety O.J. Atogwe in the starting defensive backfield. Atogwe was chosen as St. Louis' franchise player last month.

Can't-Miss Play: The Butler did it

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New York Giants S James Butler recovers a fumble and goes 95 yards for a TD.

In four seasons with the Giants, Butler played in 58 games and started 27. Butler, 27, started 26 games the past two seasons. He visited with Rams officials the first week of free agency, and St. Louis has been pursuing him ever since.

Certainly, the presence of Spagnuolo in St. Louis impacted Butler's decision.

For his career, Butler has 190 tackles, including a career-high 68 tackles in 2008. The former Georgia Tech standout, signed as an undrafted free agent in 2005, also has six career interceptions and 21 passes defensed.

Butler, however, is far stronger against the run than the pass and probably will be used as an "in the box" safety.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.