Ravens' offer to Starks: $8.42M Agent says it's '50-50' top pick will hold out

July 20, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

The Ravens have offered top draft pick Duane Starks a five-year, $8.42 million contract, and the team will know by today whether its prized rookie cornerback will make it to training camp on schedule.

Rookies are scheduled to report to Western Maryland College today, then begin practicing tomorrow.

The offer includes a $3.7 million signing bonus and would pay Starks a base salary of $630,000 this season. His salary would increase to $787,500 next year, $945,000 in 2000, $1.102 million in 2001 and $1.26 million in 2002.

Starks' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, spent much of yesterday negotiating with Ravens chief financial officer Pat Moriarty, who was expecting a counterproposal from Rosenhaus today.

The two sides also have discussed a six-year deal, which would mean a larger signing bonus for Starks, the 10th overall pick in the draft.

A source close to the negotiations said Rosenhaus initially was seeking a $5 million bonus, along with a clause that would void the final year of the deal. The source said the Ravens have ruled out a voidable option, and would increase the bonus into the $4.5 million range if Starks agreed to a six-year contract.

A major sticking point in the contract talks has to do with Starks' place in the market. The Ravens are negotiating with their eyes trained on the deals made with the ninth pick, Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor, and the 11th choice, Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Tra Thomas.

Taylor has signed a six-year, $10.7 million deal that includes a $5 million bonus. The Eagles hooked Thomas with a five-year, $8.2 million contract with a $3.4 million bonus.

A source said Rosenhaus wants to "go outside of" the market, because he envisions Starks as a starter at cornerback by the time the Ravens open their season.

"I'm not planning to just follow the leader and fall into a slot between two other contracts. Everybody is unique," said Rosenhaus, who estimated Starks' chances of briefly holding out are "about 50-50."

"We're comfortable with our proposal, based on the deals that went before us and after us," said Ravens owner Art Modell. "I'm confident we will arrive at a deal with Rosenhaus and get the kid in soon. I still think we'll see him here by Tuesday or Wednesday."

NOTES: The Ravens expect to announce agreements today on three-year contracts with safety Ryan Sutter, a fifth-round pick, linebacker Ron Rogers and offensive lineman Sammy Williams, sixth-round choices. The three-year, $648,000 contract of defensive tackle Martin Chase, a fifth-round pick, breaks down as follows: Chase receives a signing bonus of $108,000 and will get salaries of $144,000 this year, $180,000 next year and $216,000 in 2000.

Pub Date: 7/20/98

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