Ravens' wait is over: Starks signs, practices $7M deal includes $3.1M signing bonus for No. 1 draft choice

August 06, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

The Duane Starks era began with a hug from tight end Eric Green.

It was a symbolic gesture in several ways, because the Ravens are glad and need to have their No. 1 draft pick in training camp.

Starks, a former University of Miami cornerback, ended his 16-day holdout by attending the second half of the morning session and the entire second practice yesterday at Western Maryland College.

Minutes before the 5-foot-10, 170-pound Starks ran onto the practice field, he and agent Drew Rosenhaus signed a four-year contract with the Ravens that will pay him nearly $7 million, including a $3.1 million signing bonus and a $350,000 roster bonus in 1999.

"The holdout was not something I wanted to do," Starks said. "I wanted to be here, and this is something that could have been done a while ago. But I left a lot of things in his [Rosenhaus'] hands, and I told him when it was over, let me handle it from there.

"I'm excited to be here right now, and the reception from my teammates was pretty good. They have been here working their butts off, but I think they understand."

Starks communicated almost daily with defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis during the holdout. "I know most of my plays. It's just a matter of getting my repetitions in," Starks said.

Rosenhaus said the Ravens faxed him the four-year proposal Monday, and the deal was pretty much completed Tuesday afternoon. Previous negotiations were over five- and six-year deals, according to Rosenhaus.

But Pat Moriarty, the Ravens' vice president of administration, said the same four-year deal Rosenhaus signed yesterday was similar to the one the club presented three weeks ago. The Sun reported the proposal on July 30. The only missing item from the proposal was the $350,000 roster bonus in 1999.

"This is essentially the same deal," Moriarty said. "We wanted to be flexible but at the same time give him a market deal, which he signed today. We presented them with five- and six-year deals and Drew asked for a four-year proposal, and we gave him that, too, about three weeks ago. This deal should have been completed two weeks ago. Why he waited? I don't know."

Likes 4-year deal

Rosenhaus said the four-year deal was better for his client because it allows Starks to enter the free-agent market after four years compared with the six-year deal signed by Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor, who was the No. 9 overall pick, and the five-year agreement of Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Tra Thomas, the No. 11 choice.

Rosenhaus said the deal allowed Starks to maximize his signing bonus, avoid deferred money and receive the roster bonus. Starks also has three incentive clauses in the contract based on Pro Bowl appearances and if he leads the teams in interceptions as well as punt and return yards.

Those clauses are worth $50,000 each per season, but there is little chance Starks will be a return specialist with Jermaine Lewis and Patrick Johnson on the roster.

"We wanted him to sign from Day 1, but we wanted to get the best deal, too," Rosenhaus said. "The worst-case scenario was not getting him here before the first preseason game. But now we're the only player in the top 10 to sign a four-year deal, and I feel very comfortable with it.

"He is averaging about the same per year as Taylor, but he is going to be blowing those guys out in four years who signed five- and six-year deals.

"The mark of this deal will be how good Duane Starks is in four years. I'm banking my money on Duane, and when you see the kind of money that cornerbacks like Doug Evans and Jeff Burris are getting without going to the Pro Bowl, it could double for a player like Duane, who plays the premium corner position."

Starks was at that premium position yesterday, but on the second team. He would have been on the third, but veteran Rod Woodson didn't practice because of personal reasons.

Late to practice

Starks joined the morning practice 45 minutes late, then hustled onto the field to stretch with strength and conditioning coach Jerry Simmons. He ran a couple of 50-yard sprints at a moderate pace before joining the rest of the secondary in team drills.

He was involved in 11-on-11 drills and, as expected, seemed a little tentative. But at the same time he showed the skill that made him the top-rated cover player in the draft. After practice, he spent about 30 minutes working with secondary coach Alvin Reynolds.

"I worked out two, sometimes three times a day, but working around the house and with college players isn't the same as being here," Starks said. "I'm coming in to work as hard as possible and contribute whatever I can. If I start or don't, well, it doesn't matter to me because that's up to the coaches."

Starks is expected to play behind Woodson at left cornerback but quick improvement could force Woodson to the right side. That would put third-year player DeRon Jenkins on the bench. Jenkins vs. Starks was expected to be one of the best competitions in training camp.

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