Ravens name J. Harris pro personnel director Former NFL QB served Jets in similar capacity

February 25, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

The Ravens completed a trade of sorts with the New York Jets yesterday, when they hired former NFL quarterback James Harris as director of pro personnel.

Harris, who spent the previous four years as assistant general manager with the Jets, replaces Scott Pioli. He left the Ravens earlier this month to become pro personnel director in New York.

Harris spent much of his first day on the job in preparation meetings for the NFL draft. Part of his duties will entail tracking player movement in the NFL, its effect on the salary cap, and player contract negotiations.

Before assuming managerial duties with the Jets, Harris, 49, spent six seasons as a scout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"He brings a lot to the table for us," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel. "We get another evaluator, a guy who has a good understanding of the cap, a guy who knows the players around the league. He has been involved in the last 10 drafts, which accounts for most of the guys playing in this league. He has a system in place."

Said Harris: "I'm familiar with some of the people here, and I'm looking forward to this challenge. I know they did some good things on offense last year, and that they lost some games late in the season they should have won. I also know that, like most teams, they're relatively close to the [salary] cap. It's a situation where you have to make good decisions."

The Ravens went 4-12 last season with one of the league's weakest defenses. They are hoping to upgrade that unit in the draft and through the free-agent market. The Ravens are about $4.6 million under the salary cap, and are trying to re-sign their most expensive free agents, center Steve Everitt and wide receiver Michael Jackson.

Harris leaves a Jets organization that has suffered through two straight years with the NFL's worst record. New York finished 1-15 last season.

In addition to his 10 years in football operations, Harris made his mark as one of the NFL's first African-American quarterbacks. Originally drafted by Buffalo out of Grambling in 1969. Harris played for the Bills (1969-71), Los Angeles Rams (1972-76) and San Diego Chargers (1977-81).

Harris passed for 8,136 yards and 45 touchdowns in his career, and enjoyed his most productive years with the Rams. He led the league with a quarterback rating of 89.8 in 1976. He was named MVP of the 1975 Pro Bowl.

"Jobs are difficult to come by in the NFL. On the other hand, I've met a lot of qualified African-Americans around the league who haven't gotten the opportunities they deserve," said Harris, who joins Newsome and defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis as African-Americans in the Ravens' managerial ranks. "This says a lot about the ownership of this organization."

NOTES: Everitt will visit the Jets today before probably setting his sights on a long-term deal with the Ravens, Eagles or Jets. Jackson visited Kansas City on Friday and stopped in Houston over the weekend. The Oilers reportedly were set to make him an offer last night. Ravens guard Jeff Blackshear, an unrestricted free agent, probably will visit New England later this week. Yesterday, the Ravens sent Blackshear's agent, Ted Marchibroda Jr., a proposal believed to be a three-year contract. They have yet to make offers, but the Ravens were impressed by Dallas safety Brock Marion, Pittsburgh defensive end Ray Seals and Dallas linebacker Broderick Thomas, who made free-agent visits last week. In the next two weeks, Dallas linebacker Godfrey Myles, Green Bay linebacker Wayne Simmons and Seattle safety Robert Blackmon could be paying free-agent visits to Baltimore.

Pub Date: 2/25/97

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