League looks at Ogden's deal Top pick's contract may have violated policy on free agency

August 16, 1996|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

NFL officials are looking over the contract of Ravens No. 1 draft pick Jonathan Ogden to determine if rules on restricted free agency were violated.

If there are violations and the contract is voided, then Ogden would not be allowed to practice or play until a new contract is signed.

League spokesman Greg Aiello said there was no time frame, but he expected a decision from the league before Sept. 1, the day the Ravens open their season against the Oakland Raiders at Memorial Stadium.

"The league hasn't informed us of any problems with it," said Richard Berthelsen, general counsel of the legal department for the NFL Players Association. "It's typical of the league management council to review the language. I've been through every word of the contract and I haven't seen anything wrong with it. If the league opposes it, we'll go before a special master and win."

Odgen, the UCLA offensive tackle who has switched to guard, signed a seven-year, $15.4 million contract in July, but one that could be worth as much as $19.5 million with incentives. Ogden also received a $6.8 million signing bonus.

Aiello declined to comment on any specifics of the contract, but did confirm the league was "making inquiries."

According to Ravens vice president David Modell, who negotiated the contract, the league is reviewing some of the language pertaining to voidables.

Modell said that Ogden, if certain individual and team incentives are met, could void the final four years of the contract, but that the team also has a right to delay the void by two years.

According to Modell, the league policy states that a player must become a restricted free agent after three years and unrestricted in the fourth.

There is debate over Ogden's status after three years. Also unlike other players after three years, Ogden will not be given a tendered offer, according to Modell.

"The contract is currently enforced and has not been disallowed," said Modell. "I haven't gotten any letters from the league and there has been no timetable set about any resolutions. I do know that Jim Bailey [team's executive vice president, legal and administration] has had conversations with the league management council about some of the language.

"I think it's all just a technicality and it will be worked out," said Modell. "There is a slight chance this contract could be disallowed because of certain language, but if that's the case it goes before a special master who orders us to either enforce the contract or change it. We'll do whatever we have to do to get it done."

According to a source close to both the Ravens and Marvin Demoff, Ogden's agent, a problem could arise if the special master, an arbitrator in the case, voids the contract and Demoff still wants to contest it and not change any language in the contract.

"Everything in Jonathan's contract is appropriate to what has been done in the past and what is being done now," said Demoff. "There is nothing in it to cause concern and I don't expect any problems."

Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda was preparing yesterday to start Ogden against the Green Bay Packers in the team's third preseason game tomorrow night.

"There is nothing I can do," said Marchibroda. "It doesn't seem to be bothering Jonathan, so we're just working as usual."

Ogden said: "I talked to my agent about it. He says there is nothing to worry about and I just let it go at that."

Pub Date: 8/16/96

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