Jackson hauls in Ravens contract Free-agent receiver opts to stay put, signs for 3 years, $8.4 million

February 28, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

The Ravens made their first big splash in the free-agent market by retaining one of their own yesterday, re-signing wide receiver Michael Jackson to a three-year contract.

After visiting with Kansas City and Houston, and listening to a multi-year offer from the Oilers earlier this week, Jackson decided to remain with the franchise that drafted him in 1991. And after enjoying by far his best season, Jackson agreed to the most lucrative contract of his six-year career.

Jackson reportedly signed a deal that is worth $8.4 million and includes a $3 million signing bonus. The deal also includes a club option in the third and final year.

Jackson said he turned down more money from Houston to return to Baltimore. The Oilers reportedly offered Jackson a three-year deal in the $9 million range.

"Baltimore always held the upper hand. I knew this was where I wanted to be," Jackson said. "I've established some ground here in Baltimore with the fans. That's one thing I want to continue, not to mention that, in all truthfulness, I've wanted to stay with the same organization for my whole career, if that's possible. And it seems that will be possible."

Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel, said, "There was no doubt in my mind that [Jackson] wanted to be a Baltimorean and he wanted to be a Raven. That really helped us get a deal in the 11th hour that was good for us and good for Michael."

Jackson certainly was good last year for the Ravens' offense, which was the bright spot of a disappointing 4-12 season. The Ravens scored 371 points, fifth highest in the NFL.

Teaming up with quarterback Vinny Testaverde in coach Ted Marchibroda's pass-friendly offense, the 6-foot-4 Jackson tied for the NFL lead with 14 touchdown catches, finished second in the AFC with 1,201 receiving yards and caught 76 passes. All of those totals marked career highs.

Two weeks ago, the Ravens made a salary-cap decision by electing not to exercise a $2.5 million option -- all of which was guaranteed -- in the final year of a four-year contract Jackson signed in 1994. The Ravens thus allowed Jackson to become an unrestricted free agent, but were assured by his agent, Gary Uberstein, that they would get every opportunity to re-sign him.

"Not to disparage or diminish the value or quality of our other players who are unsigned, but clearly [Jackson] was our No. 1 priority," team owner Art Modell said. "Not only did he have a great year, but no single player was more active in this community than Michael Jackson. He and Derrick Alexander present Baltimore's fans with one of the best receiving tandems in the NFL."

Jackson and Alexander were one of just four receiving duos to each surpass the 1,000-yard mark. They combined for 23 touchdown catches, the highest of any receiving tandem in the league.

Jackson said that he also came back to the Ravens to be reunited with receivers coach Richard Mann, who recently was hired and will replace Mike Sheppard, who is leaving to become offensive coordinator with the San Diego Chargers. Mann coached Jackson during his first three seasons with the Cleveland Browns.

And the opportunity to stay in a productive offense was equally alluring to Jackson.

"I was a big part of this offense, and I feel I can remain a big part of this offense," Jackson said. "Now I don't have to re-learn anything when I go to training camp. There's more pressure on me now. But I've had enough pressure put on me over the years that I'm used to it."

Pub Date: 2/28/97

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