Ravens lose Jenkins, meet with Gordon

Chargers sign cornerback for three years, $9.6 million

February 22, 2000|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Anticipating the defection of free-agent cornerback DeRon Jenkins, the Ravens brought in his potential replacement, Oakland Raiders free agent Darrien Gordon, last night for a two-day visit.

The Ravens had arranged for Gordon's arrival even before learning that Jenkins had signed a three-year contract worth $9.6 million with the San Diego Chargers early last evening. He received a $3.6 million signing bonus.

"This is an opportunity for Darrien to get to know [defensive backs coach] Steve Shafer, [defensive coordinator] Marvin Lewis, myself and the rest of the organization," said Ozzie Newsome, the team's vice president of player personnel. "He already knows Brian [Billick, head coach] because Brian recruited him to Stanford."

The Ravens were kept informed of Jenkins' travel itinerary by agent Mitch Frankel once the free-agent season opened two weeks ago. That itinerary included visits to the Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys and Chargers.

The Ravens were not surprised by yesterday's development with Jenkins. "We were getting some ideas of where the numbers were at," Newsome said.

According to Newsome, there was an understanding the Ravens would have an opportunity to match any offer at the 11th hour. But because the Ravens have invested heavily in cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Duane Starks -- both first-round picks -- there was little chance they would meet a $3 million-a-year offer.

"We definitely recognized the improvement DeRon has had over the last year and a half," Newsome said, "but with Chris and Duane, and with the other things we need to do with this team, it was tough to be able to match the offer he got."

Jenkins, a second-round choice in 1996 out of Tennessee, enjoyed the best of his four NFL seasons in 1999. He started 15 games -- 13 at right corner -- and ranked fourth on the team in solo tackles (54) and passes defensed (13). In 63 career games and 30 starts with the Ravens, he had two interceptions.

Gordon, 29, was one of the heroes in the Denver Broncos' 34-19 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII with two interceptions and a Super Bowl-record 108 return yards. He joined the Raiders as a free agent last season and had three interceptions, but was cut in a salary cap move.

A seven-year veteran, Gordon also played three years with the Chargers. He also is one of the league's best punt returners with six career touchdown returns.

Sun staff writer Mike Preston contributed to this article.

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