Ravens restructure, sign Atkins, 2 others Burnett's contract redone to free cap room

March 26, 1998|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Ravens cleared about $900,000 salary-cap room by restructuring Rob Burnett's contract and added to their veteran depth by signing three players with NFL experience yesterday.

The Ravens also started negotiations with Ray Anderson, the agent for wide receiver Jermaine Lewis, on a deal that could stretch from three to six years.

The three newcomers to the roster are James Atkins, who'll be a backup offensive tackle; punter Kyle Richardson, who'll duel Greg Montgomery for the punting job after Montgomery had a subpar season last year; and wide receiver Stevie Anderson.

All three are so-called street free agents who have been cut by other teams. Atkins was waived by the Seattle Seahawks after playing four seasons with them. Richardson played five games last year with the Miami Dolphins and Seahawks. Anderson was waived by the Arizona Cardinals in training camp last year after playing two years with the team.

Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel, said that Atkins, who started against the Ravens last year as a guard after he lost his tackle job when the Seahawks drafted Walter Jones on the first round, will give them a veteran who can play either tackle if Jonathan Ogden or Orlando Brown is sidelined.

He'll also be one of the several players in the mix at guard, where the Ravens have an opening because Leo Goeas was waived.

"It's [offensive line coach] Kirk Ferentz's job to put the five best players on the field," Newsome said.

One of the Ravens' goals this year is to add more veterans who'll make training camp more competitive.

Richardson, who played at Arkansas State from 1992 to '95, played in the World League last spring and then was signed by the Dolphins in September -- without ever going to an NFL camp -- when John Kidd was injured. He wound up averaging 42.3 yards a punt in five games with the Dolphins and Seahawks, although one of his punts was blocked in consecutive games before he was released.

Coach Ted Marchibroda said he thinks that Richardson will be "excellent competition" for Montgomery, who slumped last season. His gross average dropped from 43.8 yards to 42.7. Now it's up to Montgomery to win the job again.

In tinkering with Burnett's contract, his agent, James Sims, said that the Ravens lowered his cap number from $3.5 million to $2.6 million by lowering his base salary and giving him roster bonuses and guaranteeing money that was prorated after the next two years.

"It worked out well for him and the team," Sims said. It boosted the Ravens from $1.8 to $2.7 million under this year's $52.388 million cap.

Sims said Burnett's contract expires after the 1999 season and he expects to negotiate an extension.

It's normal procedure for teams to continually redo contracts to stay under the cap. Last year, the Ravens signed Michael Jackson in the spring and redid his contract in September. They also restructured the contracts of such veterans as Ogden, Brown and Ray Lewis.

At $2.6 million, Burnett dropped from second to fourth on the salary cap chart behind Vinny Testaverde's $4.1 million, Jackson's $3.3 million and Wally Williams' $3 million. Jim Harbaugh is fifth at $2.5 million, followed by Brown at $2.4 million, Ogden at $2.2 million and Peter Boulware and Michael McCrary at $2 million. The Ravens are expected to lower their salary cap on Testaverde by cutting him after June 1 and they can lower Williams' $3 million cap number by negotiating a long-term deal with him that would include a big prorated signing bonus.

The Ravens currently have about $26 million -- about half their total cap -- tied up in just 10 players. That's also typical in this system in which the players with the most leverage get the most money.

Since Jermaine Lewis' contract expires after this season and he'll become a restricted free agent, Newsome said the Ravens hope to have a new deal in place for him by the time camp starts. He said it could run a minimum of three years to a maximum of six depending on how the talks go.

Newsome said he'd also like to extend the contract of defensive lineman Keith Washington, whose contract expires at the end of this year.

Newsome said he didn't make any progress on his attempt to trade down from 10th to between 15th and 20th on the first round, but said he hopes to make a deal near or on draft day with one of the teams in those slots.

In the money

The Ravens' top 10 1998 salary cap numbers:

Pos., Player .. .. .. .. .. .. ..No. in millions

QB Vinny Testaverde .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...$4.1

WR Michael Jackson .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..3.3

C Wally Williams .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .3.0

DL Rob Burnett .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...2.6

QB Jim Harbaugh .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..2.5

OT Orlando Brown .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .2.4

OT Jonathan Ogden .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...2.2

LB Peter Boulware .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...2.0

DL Michael McCrary .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..2.0

DT Tony Siragusa .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .1.9

Pub Date: 3/26/98

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