49ers pick off Ravens' Langham 'Annual' contender signs veteran corner for 5 years, $17 million

Woodson gain canceled out

Marchibroda seeks trade for replacement

March 05, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

One day after bolstering their secondary by signing free-agent cornerback Rod Woodson, the Ravens suffered a major loss in the same area by losing veteran cornerback Antonio Langham to the San Francisco 49ers.

Last night, the 49ers and Langham reached agreement on a five-year, $17 million contract that includes a signing bonus of about $3.5 million and a voidable clause after the fourth season.

The Ravens had been counting on pairing Lang- ham with Woodson at cornerback, and reportedly had offered Langham a long-term deal that included a $5 million signing bonus and a chance to make $7.5 million in the first two years.

According to Langham's agent, Pat Dye Jr., the lure of playing for a Super Bowl contender weighed heavily in Langham's decision.

San Francisco, which lost veteran Tyronne Drakeford to free agency and also waived Woodson last month, responded to its dire need for a cornerback by creating enough salary cap room to sign Langham. The 49ers recently restructured guard Ray Brown's contract, and two days ago, they waived running back Terry Kirby to free up another $667,000.

"First of all, the 49ers did a great job of recruiting him, and they continually improved their offer until it became acceptable. They went to great lengths to make this happen," Dye said. "They made Antonio feel very important and very wanted. They were strapped [financially], yet they found a way to get it done.

"They have a great tradition," Dye added.

Langham, 25, who did not return phone calls last night, originally was drafted in the first round out of Alabama -- the ninth pick overall -- by the Cleveland Browns in 1994. He started all 16 games and was Defensive Rookie of the Year.

The next two years were uneven at best. He was burned repeatedly for touchdowns during his first season in Baltimore in 1996. He had a solid 1997, leading the team with 14 pass deflections and adding 51 tackles and three interceptions, one of which he returned 40 yards for a score against Jacksonville on Nov. 30.

The Ravens, still not comfortable with cornerback DeRon Jenkins -- a second-round pick in 1996 -- most likely will look to fill Langham's shoes through the trade route. They may try to swing deals for either New Orleans' Eric Allen or Carolina's Tyrone Poole.

"We have to come up with a corner, there's no question about it," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said. "And we'll have to pay a price [via trade], since the other [top free-agent] corners are gone.

"We tried to get Antonio back. He's been here for two years, and he knew the system. Now, we have to bring in somebody to learn the system, which is not a big problem."

NOTES: The Atlanta Falcons are close to signing backup quarterback Eric Zeier, a restricted free agent, to a multi-year offer sheet, WXIA-TV in Atlanta reported. Ravens owner Art Modell promised Monday to match any offer for the former Georgia star. Woodson's four-year, $11.5 million contract, which includes a club option year in the final season, breaks down as follows: He will collect a $3 million signing bonus and will earn a $500,000 salary in 1998. In 1999, he will get a $1 million reporting bonus and a $1.2 million salary. He is scheduled to receive another $1 million reporting bonus and a $1.8 million salary in 2000. The option year includes an additional $3 million salary. The Ravens will open their 1998 preseason Aug. 8 at their new Camden Yards stadium against Chicago, then will hit the road to play the New York Jets, return home to face Philadelphia, and will wrap up the preseason at the New York Giants.

Pub Date: 3/05/98

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