Ravens losing Alexander to Chiefs Unrestricted agent reaches agreement for five years, $17M


The Ravens' frenetic off-season of change hit a speed bump yesterday when the club learned it was losing wide receiver Derrick Alexander to the Kansas City Chiefs.

An unrestricted free agent, Alexander has reached an agreement in principle on a five-year, $17 million contract to join the Chiefs.

Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel, said the team was notified yesterday morning by Alexander's agent of the pending deal with Kansas City.

Although Chiefs spokesman Bob Moore said there is "no agreement or contract at this time" with Alexander, he acknowledged the negotiations are advanced.

Alexander's agent, Lamont Smith, did not return a call to his Denver office yesterday.

"We've been told by his agent they have a deal," Newsome said. "From our standpoint, we're no longer negotiating to get Derrick back."

That means when the Ravens open the 1998 season in their new stadium at Camden Yards, their revamped offense will have a new look at quarterback, running back, fullback and wide receiver.

In the past month, the team has traded for quarterback Jim Harbaugh and running back Errict Rhett, and signed free-agent fullback Roosevelt Potts.

Replacing Alexander, a first-round draft choice with the Cleveland Browns in 1994, won't be easy, though. The four-year veteran is coming off consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons. In his two years in Baltimore, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound wideout had 127 catches for 2,108 yards and 18 touchdowns.

He was a Pro Bowl alternate after catching 62 passes for 1,099 yards and nine TDs in 1996. Last season, he had a career-high 65 receptions for 1,009 yards, but was benched at one point for missing two team meetings. His nine TD catches ranked fourth in the AFC, and he had a non-scoring, 92-yard reception also.

Alexander's departure opens a door of opportunity for second-year receiver Jermaine Lewis, who had worked primarily as the team's third receiver in the slot.

"In order to keep Jermaine Lewis healthy, we want to move him to an outside spot," Newsome said.

James Roe moves up the depth chart to become the third receiver for now.

There may be other options, as well. Newsome said the Ravens have held preliminary talks with two unrestricted free-agent receivers. They are Torrance Small, who played with the St. Louis Rams last season, and Andre Hastings, who played with the New Orleans Saints.

Barring an unexpected collapse in negotiations with Kansas City, Alexander will be reunited with his old college quarterback and a former Browns teammate. He played collegiately at Michigan with Chiefs quarterback Elvis Grbac, and in Cleveland with Chiefs wide receiver Andre Rison.

The Chiefs wanted to add a legitimate deep threat to the passing game to help protect Rison. With the departure of offensive coordinator Paul Hackett (to Southern California as head coach), they intend to ditch their nickel-and-dime passing game and throw downfield more often next season.

Alexander made a three-day visit to Kansas City last week, along with Atlanta Falcons restricted free agent Bert Emanuel. Unlike with Emanuel, though, the Chiefs will not have to give up any draft picks to sign Alexander.

Alexander passed the 1,000-yard mark in receptions last season with 111 yards on five catches in the season finale at Cincinnati.

Since 1996, teammate Michael Jackson (18 touchdowns) and Alexander were tied for the top touchdown-catching duo in the NFL with 36 scores. Minnesota's Cris Carter (23) and Jake Reed (13) also have 36.

For his career, Alexander has 190 receptions for 3,152 yards and 20 touchdowns.

"We are losing some production there," Newsome said.

Alexander's '97 stats

Date Opp., Rec., Yds., TD

8/31 Jack., 2, 23, 0

9/7 Cin., 8, 104, 0

9/14 NYG, 5, 57, 1

9/21 Tenn., 5, 66, 2

9/28 S.D., 2, 32, 0

10/5 Pitt., 6, 79, 1

10/19 Mia., 6, 79, 1

10/26 Wash., 3, 58, 1

11/2 NYJ, 5, 69, 1

11/9 Pitt., 3, 47, 0

11/16 Phil., 4, 39, 0

11/23 Ariz., 3, 48, 0

tTC 11/30 Jack., DNP

12/7 Sea., 6, 150, 0

12/14 Tenn., 2, 47, 1

12/21 Cin., 5, 111, 1

Tot., 65, 1,009, 9

Pub Date: 3/01/98

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