Purnell joins Ravens' TE mix

Fourth new tight end brings `athleticism,' competition for others

April 01, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

The Ravens completed a trade with New England yesterday by obtaining tight end Lovett Purnell from the Patriots for a sixth-round pick in this year's NFL draft.

The Ravens also signed Purnell, a restricted free agent entering his fourth season, to a one-year, $500,000 contract. The deal includes an incentive package that could push Purnell's 1999 earnings to $1 million.

Purnell, 6 feet 3, 245 pounds, is the fourth tight end the Ravens have added during the off-season. They also have signed Aaron Pierce -- who did not play in 1998 -- and former Minnesota Viking Greg DeLong, who is considered more of an H-back. Veteran Frank Wainright, formerly of the Miami Dolphins, is primarily a long snapper.

Purnell will compete with Pierce, formerly of the New York Giants, and third-year player A. J. Ofodile for the Ravens' starting job.

Purnell, who backed up All-Pro tight end Ben Coates in New England, caught a career-high 12 passes for 92 yards last season. Originally a seventh-round draft pick out of West Virginia in 1996, he spent most of his rookie year on New England's practice squad. In 1997, Purnell, who did not return phone calls yesterday, caught only five passes, although three went for touchdowns.

"Lovett is an experienced tight end who brings a lot of athleticism to the position, and he should help create a very competitive atmosphere at tight end," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Lovett has value."

The Ravens have done their share of bargain-basement shopping regarding tight ends this year. After losing veteran Eric Green (four years, $7 million) to the New York Jets, they have committed only $4.3 million combined to Purnell, Pierce (two years, $1.7 million) and DeLong (three years, $2.1 million).

The Purnell deal leaves the Ravens with six picks in the April 17-18 draft. The Ravens have the 10th overall selection, along with single picks in the second, fifth and seventh rounds. They also have two fourth-round choices.

If the Ravens acquire veteran quarterback Warren Moon to back up Scott Mitchell, the team is expected to trade current backup Eric Zeier. Billick said several teams have expressed interest in dealing for Zeier, who figures to command a sixth- or seventh-round draft pick.

Pub Date: 4/01/99

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