Byner, Ravens agree in principle to contract Newsome: Team interested in Jets tight end Mitchell

April 17, 1996|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

A representative for unrestricted free-agent running back Earnest Byner has agreed in principle to a new contract with the Baltimore Ravens, said Ozzie Newsome, the team's director of football operations.

Newsome also said the Ravens are interested in obtaining tight end Johnny Mitchell from the New York Jets.

Terms of Byner's contract were not available last night. Byner, 33, reportedly made $400,000 in base salary and another $400,000 in bonuses last year. Byner was on vacation and unavailable for comment last night. His agent, Alan Herman, did not return phone calls, but Byner's contract is believed to be for two years.

Byner completed his 12th pro season last year in Cleveland with a flourish. He caught a team- and career-high 61 passes for 494 yards, added 432 yards rushing and took over ably as a starter for the injured Leroy Hoard in the season's last month.

Byner is listed as the team's starting halfback, but the Ravens have expressed an interest in Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips in the NFL draft Saturday.

Mitchell, 25, is the Jets' "franchise player" and has been tendered an offer of $1.47 million from New York, the average salary of the top five tight ends in the league.

The Ravens would have to at least match that offer. Newsome said the team is about $700,000 under the $40.8 million salary cap set for 1996, but could find room to sign Mitchell.

Newsome said that he has not even had "preliminary" talks with Mitchell or his agent, Anthony Hilliard.

The 6-foot-3, 241-pound Mitchell had 45 receptions for 497 yards and five touchdowns last season. In four years with the Jets, he had 158 receptions for 2,086 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has exceptional speed, but is not noted as a run blocker.

Pub Date: 4/17/96

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