Coach says marquee QB good sign for Baltimore

February 20, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

It starts here with Tracy Ham, and it starts now with a quarterback whose improvisational skills have tantalized Don Matthews for years.

When Baltimore's new Canadian Football League team made Ham its marquee player Friday night, it was the boldest statement yet of where Matthews, the coach, intends to go.

"The great thing with Tracy Ham is that in a new franchise, there may be new people around," Matthews said. "When things break down, Tracy can do it alone. That type guy, the ad-lib guy, is of tremendous importance to the franchise.

"This gives us credibility when it comes to signing other free agents. It tells them we're serious. It was a big step toward being competitive."

Matthews says he will produce a winner in his first season.

If Baltimore closed the credibility gap as a CFL expansion team, Ham moved a little closer to his home near Savannah, Ga.

A free agent after playing with the Toronto Argonauts in 1993, Ham, 30, chose Baltimore over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

"There was no difference on money," said Ham's Toronto attorney, Dan Lawson. "It is exciting for him to go to a large city with a good football past, a good coach and a lot of potential."

Ham, who will be introduced in Baltimore at a noon news conference today, agreed to terms on a three-year contract. The first two years are guaranteed, and he gets approximately half his 1996 salary up front, before that season starts. Team owner Jim Speros didn't say much Ham would be paid, but said the deal puts him among the league's "three or four" top-paid quarterbacks.

Calgary's Doug Flutie ($1 million per season) and Winnipeg's Matt Dunigan ($500,000) are the two highest-paid quarterbacks.

"We got the guy we wanted and we made a commitment to get him," Speros said. "Don told me it was my job to get it done. The key thing Tracy wanted was a guarantee.

"He's a great athlete who makes you miss him. He's as good as anybody in the league."

In seven CFL seasons, six with the Edmonton Eskimos, Ham has led the league in passing efficiency twice -- the last time in 1992 -- and holds league records for quarterback rushing yards in a game (166) and a season (1,096).

Ham was the CFL's outstanding player in 1989. A year later, he took the Eskimos to the Grey Cup, where they lost to Winnipeg, 50-11.

The signing of Ham was meaningful to Matthews, who left the Saskatchewan Roughriders to come to Baltimore.

"The first thing it tells me is that Jim Speros is good to his word, that he is committed to bring the best football possible to Baltimore," he said.

Matthews and Ham were at Edmonton together in 1989, when Matthews was the defensive coordinator.

"I know him very well," Matthews said. "We used to have some nice talks. There is a comfort factor between Tracy and I."

@TRACY HAM'S CFL STATS

Edmonton Eskimos .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Pass .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Rush

Year .. .. .. .. .. yds. .. ..TD .. ..Int. .. ..yds.

1987 .. .. .. .. .. 231 .. .. .1 .. ...3.. .. ... 56

1988 .. .. .. .. .2,840 .. ...14 .. ..15 .. .. ..628

1989 .. .. .. .. .4,366 .. ...30 .. ..18 .. ...1,005

1990 .. .. .. .. .4,286 .. ...36 .. ..24 .. ...1,096

1991 .. .. .. .. .3,862 .. ...31 .. ..16 .. .. ..998

1992 .. .. .. .. .3,655 .. ...30 .. ..13 .. .. ..655

Toronto Argonauts

1993 .. ... .. ...2,147 .. .. .8 .. ..11 .. .. ..605

Tot. .. .. .. ...21,387 .. ...150 .. 100 .. ...5,043

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