Ravens bulking up on defense Free agent R. Jones signs

Moore stays

Bankston talks go on

March 28, 1997|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

The Ravens' secondary picture became a lot clearer yesterday as safeties Stevon Moore and Rondell Jones agreed to contracts, but the team is still involved in negotiations with defensive end Michael Bankston, who would be considered a key off-season acquisition if the team can sign him.

Bankston, a free agent with the Arizona Cardinals, was scheduled to talk with Ravens officials last night about a three-year deal. Moore agreed to a four-year deal worth an estimated $4 million that included a $1 million signing bonus and a base salary of $250,000 this season. Jones' deal is for two years worth about $400,000 per season.

The Ravens have set their sights on Bankston, 27, who had 89 tackles for the Cardinals last season. The Ravens were so impressed with him during a recent visit that owner Art Modell has called him personally, and coach Ted Marchibroda has spoken with his wife, who prefers to stay in Arizona, according to Gene Burrough, Bankston's agent.

"The Ravens have expressed a strong desire to sign Michael, but now it has to be worked out on the table," said Burrough. "We have given them a proposal that we think is fair, now we're just waiting to see if we get a favorable response."

Both Burrough and Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens vice president of player personnel, were unavailable for comment last night.

If the Ravens sign Bankston, it would be unlikely they would re-sign Anthony Pleasant, who started at one defensive end for the Ravens last season and has been with the organization for eight years.

Newsome also has been in contact with Neil Cornrich, Pleasant's agent, but Bankston seems more like a priority.

Pleasant made nearly $1 million in base salary last season. Bankston was at $800,000.

"We've been talking to a lot of people, getting a lot of interest," said Cornrich. "Michael Bankston is a good alternative to Anthony. Does Anthony want to play for Baltimore? Yes. Does he want to leave an organization he has been with all his career? No. But we have to reach an agreement that is satisfying for both parties, especially Anthony."

Moore, 30, took a pay cut to remain with the Ravens even though he was one of the team's most dependable players. He is the only defensive player from a year ago to start every game, was third on the team in tackles with 108, and has not missed a start for the Browns and Ravens during the past four seasons.

Moore made nearly $1.7 million in salary last season.

"The market has been slow, especially for safeties, and everybody was offering about the same amount of money," said Moore, a Pro Bowl alternate in 1995.

"I've been with the same organization for five years and I thought it was in the best interest for me and my family to stay in Baltimore and finish my career here."

One of the deciding factors to re-sign Moore may have been his hard work during this off-season at the team's Owings Mills complex.

"I think Stevon can be one of the important leaders on this team," said Marchibroda.

"My sense is that he is really dedicated to making this season the best possible. He is a hard worker and some of the young players can see that in our off-season program."

With Moore agreeing to terms, Newsome said the Ravens have 37 players who are either under contract or have agreed in principle, including three starters in the secondary that features cornerbacks DeRon Jenkins, Antonio Langham and Moore.

According to Newsome, the Ravens are close to agreeing with a fourth starter, Dallas Cowboys free-agent safety Brock Marion, who is currently negotiating with the team about restructuring his contract.

Marion had previously agreed to a four-year deal worth $8.4 million until the team learned that his left shoulder had not healed completely from an injury he sustained last season.

If Marion doesn't sign with the Ravens, the team will try to sign Seattle Seahawks safety Robert Blackmon, who visited the Ravens complex Tuesday. When asked why the team didn't just sign Blackmon and not concern itself with an injured player, Newsome said little.

"We would like to get something done with Brock and his agent," Newsome said.

Jones, 25, would be used mostly on special teams, and he is considered one of the best performers in the league. He was a third-round draft pick of the Broncos in 1993 and played in 62 of Denver's 64 regular-season games in four years.

Jones is from Northern High in Sunderland, Calvert County.

"He upgrades our special teams and we think he is one of the best young safeties around, and we're going to give him a chance to prove it," said Newsome.

Pub Date: 3/28/97

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