Ravens get LB Lewis in the fold No. 2 pick agrees to five-year deal

July 14, 1996|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

The Ravens and University of Miami middle linebacker Ray Lewis agreed in principle to a five-year contract last night, successfully completing the team's quest to have its top two draft picks at Western Maryland College in time for the start of training camp tomorrow.

According to a source close to the negotiations, Lewis' five-year deal includes a $1.3 million signing bonus and base salaries for the next five years of $450,000, $562,000, $675,000, $775,000 and $890,000.

The source said Lewis also will have $100,000 a year in incentive bonuses that won't count against the salary cap. Lewis was the 26th player drafted overall and the second first-round pick for the Ravens.

Top draft pick Jonathan Ogden, an offensive tackle from UCLA who was the No. 4 selection overall, agreed in principle with the team in the middle of last week on a likely seven-year contract that will include a signing bonus of nearly $6.5 million and count between $1.67 million and $1.68 million against the 1996 salary cap.

"In this day and age, you are never sure when you are going to have all the top picks in," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said last night. "This it great. Every day helps."

Lewis' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and the Ravens had some tough negotiations during the past week, and on Thursday he wasn't sure if Lewis would report to the team's camp.

According to a source, the stumbling block in the negotiations was the length of the contract. Rosenhaus argued for four years and the Ravens wanted five for salary-cap reasons.

The source also said both parties finally agreed to make the fifth year in Lewis' contract voidable if Lewis plays in 50 percent of the team's plays this season, or 65 percent in the following three.

Both Rosenhaus and members of the Ravens' front office declined to comment about specifics of the contract.

"I'm just happy we reached an agreement," said Rosenhaus. "Ray is excited about the season and looking forward to starting. He is a very confident young man, and looks forward to trying to fill in for Pepper Johnson, if the Ravens don't re-sign him."

Lewis had 388 tackles during his career at Miami, and the Ravens named him their starting middle linebacker after cutting Johnson, a 10-year veteran, Tuesday along with wide receiver Andre Rison.

Lewis will be the focal point of the Ravens' 4-3 defense, and he will have to compensate for his small size (6 feet 1, 225 pounds) with speed.

"We think he is going to be a big-play performer," said Marchibroda. "He missed the rookie minicamp so he is already behind. We're going to get after him right away."

Lewis' agreement comes at a crucial time for the Ravens. The team still is having communication with Johnson, who will visit the Philadelphia Eagles tomorrow.

The Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers also have an interest in Johnson, who doesn't seem eager to return to Baltimore.

"I never rule out all of my options, but I didn't like the treatment I received from the staff in Baltimore," said Johnson. "It seemed like they didn't know what to expect from me because I was from the old regime. If they want me back, there is going to have to be some kiss and make up."

BTC Ozzie Newsome, the team's vice president of personnel, said he has told Johnson that once he gets an offer, the Ravens might try to match it.

"Whatever happens with Pepper, we're just glad to get this over," said Rosenhaus.

The Ravens now will concentrate on getting agreements from Tennessee rookie cornerback DeRon Jenkins, who was drafted in the second round, and fifth-round pick Jermaine Lewis, a wide receiver out of the University of Maryland.

Ravens camp

Where: Western Maryland College, Westminster

When: Rookies and selected veterans report tomorrow at 5 p.m. Veterans report Thursday at 4 p.m.

Practices: Start Tuesday and run through Thursday, Aug. 15. All are free and open to the public. Times are from 9 a.m. to 11: 30 a.m. and 2: 30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

What to bring: Pens for autographs, cameras, binoculars, sunscreen.

What not to bring: Video recorders, pets, alcohol, cans or bottles.

Directions from Baltimore: Take I-695 to Exit 19 onto I-795 North and continue to its completion. Follow signs to Westminster via Route 140 North around Westminster and turn left, exiting onto Route 31. Follow signs to Route 97 South (Pennsylvania Avenue). Turn left on Monroe Street and follow signs to parking lots.

Pub Date: 7/14/96

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