Starks, Ravens close to accord $7 million contract put on table

16-day holdout is near end

August 05, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Gary Lambrecht contributed to this article.

Ravens top draft pick Duane Starks is close to ending a 16-day holdout after his agent reached an agreement in principle with the team that will pay the former University of Miami cornerback $7 million, including a $3.1 million signing bonus, over the next four years.

Starks and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, were trying to complete the deal last night, but the agreement cannot be finalized until today. Rosenhaus and Starks flew from Miami to Baltimore last night.

Starks is expected to make $615,000 in base salary his first year, $418,000 in the second, $922,000 in the third and $1.76 million in fourth. He will also collect a $350,000 roster bonus next year.

The 5-feet-10, 170-pound Starks was the No. 10 overall pick in the NFL draft last April. He could begin practicing with the team at Western Maryland College as early as this morning.

Starks did not return phone calls to his home yesterday.

"We have agreed in principle," Rosenhaus said yesterday afternoon. "We're working on incentive clauses and other things that will help us in tax purposes, but the bulk of the contract has been agreed to in principle."

Rosenhaus and Starks had previously said they were looking for deals larger than the ones signed by No. 9 pick Fred Taylor, a running back who signed a six-year, $10.704 million contract with Jacksonville, and No. 11 selection Tra Thomas, an offensive lineman who signed a five-year, $8.2 million contract with Philadelphia.

The Ravens were holding to their original offer, which would pay Starks about $8.5 million over the next five or six years, but Rosenhaus apparently settled on a shorter contract which would enable Starks to hit the free-agent market sooner than either Taylor or Thomas.

Ravens owner Art Modell cautioned about the deal being finalized.

"If they work it out, all right, and if they don't they don't," Modell said. "I'm not worried about it. I've been around for 37 years and with these agents, anything can happen.

"Who is this Drew Rosenhaus? Just some agent from Miami. Now I hear there is a language problem in the contract. Maybe we should put it in Chinese. Or Hebrew. When I see the kid here in a Ravens uniform, on our practice field, then it's done."

Starks was an All-Big East first-team selection for the Hurricanes last season, recording 87 tackles (53 solo) while batting nine passes down and intercepting three others. His forte, though, was man-to-man coverage and he was generally rated the top cover player in the country.

That's exactly why the Ravens drafted him. The Ravens use a zone blitz scheme which often leaves its cornerbacks one-on-one with receivers. Besides veteran Rod Woodson, the Ravens feel they now have another cornerback who can match up with a Carl Pickens, Keenan McCardell or Yancey Thigpen.

They also feel that Starks gives them options in their coverages and will improve the nickel and dime packages from a year ago.

During the holdout, Starks was listed as the No. 3 left cornerback behind Woodson and second-year player John Williams. Starks will replace Williams and a quick development may force the Ravens to move Starks into the starting lineup and Woodson over to right cornerback to replace third-year player DeRon Jenkins.

The Jenkins-Starks matchup was expected to be one of the hot competitions in camp. Jenkins has shown steady improvement since the mini-camp in June and has had his best practices recently.

The question now is if Starks can catch up. Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said he expects Starks to be ready for the second preseason game. The Ravens plan to work him into the extra-man coverages as soon as possible.

"You can't replace the time he has missed mentally," defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said. "He is really behind in concepts. He is going to go through a meltdown physically because he hasn't had the conditioning these guys have had. There are quite a few drawbacks."

Lewis said it would be hard to put into percentages how available Starks would be for the season opener.

"Maybe it's 90 percent," Lewis said. "Hopefully, that 10 percent doesn't cost us a football game."

Starks could seek advice from strongside linebacker Peter Boulware, who held out nearly six weeks last year as the No. 4 overall pick in the draft.

"Just come in and play hard," Boulware said. "You play as hard as you can because you're going to make mistakes. That's all they can ask you to do."

Boulware said the toughest part is the mental strain.

"That's because you have to learn on the run," Boulware said. "Physically, I was all right but when they started asking me about the calls, I didn't know some of them. But he can catch up and be ready for the opener. Great players can pick things up very easily and we're talking about a person who has been playing football all his life.

"When I came in last year, the guys said they were glad to have me, told me to put it all behind me and let's rock and roll. It will be the same with Duane Starks."

Starks' contract

The breakdown of the four-year contract agreed to in principle by cornerback Duane Starks, the Ravens' first-round draft pick and the 10th overall.

Signing bonus:.. .. .. .. $3,100,000

1998 base salary: .. .. .. .$615,000

1999 base salary: .. .. .. .$418,000

1999 roster salary: .. .. ..$350,000

2000 base salary: .. .. .. .$922,000

2001 base salary: .. .. ..$1,760,000

Total package: .. .. .. ..$7,165,000

Pub Date: 8/05/98

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