ST. LOUIS (AP) -The St. Louis Rams took the unusual step of targeting a kicker on the first day of free agency. They quickly landed Josh Brown, whose track record they know all too well.
Brown, who signed a five-year, $14.2 million contract Saturday as replacement for the retired Jeff Wilkins, has an 80-percent success rate on field goals for his career. He tied an NFL record with four game-winning field goals in the final minute of regulation or overtime in 2006, and two of them stunned the Rams.
Those two kicks cost the Rams an NFC West championship, with the Seattle Seahawks winning the division at 9-7 and the Rams going 8-8.
``Some of the guys were like 'We have a nickname for you and we're all going to have to change our thoughts,''' Brown said at a news conference on Saturday. ``The main one was Ram killer - that's what the Seattle people called me and I guess that's what some of them called me here. But no longer.''
Coach Scott Linehan said the Rams' front office was unanimous in its assessment that Brown was the best free agent available at any position. They backed it up with a $4 million signing bonus, the NFL's largest for a kicker.
The salary commitment makes Brown one of the highest-paid kickers in the NFL and is a major step up for the Rams. Wilkins, the franchise's career scoring leader with 1,223 points, was paid $1.4 million last season.
``They just blew me away with their offer,'' Brown said. ``I can't tell you exactly how it feels to be received and wanted that way by a ballclub.''
The Rams have other pressing needs in free agency after a 3-13 season, including the offensive line, defensive line and secondary. The timing of Wilkins' retirement announcement rather than postponing a decision on his future allowed them to plug at least one hole.
``The way he handled this whole thing was really helpful,'' player personnel director Billy Devaney said. ``The worst case was him saying he needed some time to think about it and we're left in the lurch.''
The 28-year-old Brown carried the Seahawks' franchise-tag designation in 2006 but Seattle shifted that tag to cornerback Marcus Trufant this offseason. Brown, who scored a career-high 127 points last season and topped 100 points all five seasons in Seattle, said his former team didn't seem that interested in keeping him.
The Seahawks also offered a $14 million package, although Brown said the contract length was longer and was backloaded.
``I never felt like we were really, really close,'' Brown said. ``I felt like we just kept dancing around things, we just kept going back and forth, and nothing was ever being finalized and certain things that I perceived to be important were not being paid attention to.''
Brown's agent, Rob Roche, said the Rams offer was vastly superior.
``They stepped up to the plate and showed their seriousness right off the bat,'' Roche said.
The signing brings Brown, who attended Nebraska, closer to his family in Tulsa, Okla. He had been negotiating with the Chiefs and Falcons before the 35-year-old Wilkins retired because of recurring lower back and leg woes.
``Out of nowhere my agent calls me and says, 'Jeff Wilkins just retired,''' Brown said. ``I was kind of nervous about another team in the division and I was like 'I'm going to get massacred by the Seattle fans now.
``But it's all part of the game.''

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