Sanders signs

ex-Bear Robinson sought

Ex-Card makes it official for 4 years, $8.8M

team still seeking receiver help

Ravens

April 19, 2003|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The Ravens locked up one veteran receiver and could have another one on the way.

The team officially signed Frank Sanders to a four-year, $8.8 million deal and may bring in recently released Marcus Robinson for a visit after next weekend's NFL draft.

Sanders, 30, whose deal included a $1.7 million signing bonus, is a critical pickup because he is known for having reliable hands and being a solid locker-room presence.

The Ravens, though, are still seeking to upgrade the league's sixth-worst passing attack and could fill their deep-threat void with the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Robinson.

A six-year veteran from the Chicago Bears, Robinson burst onto the NFL scene in 1999 when he made 84 receptions and was named a Pro Bowl alternate. But he finished the 2000 and 2001 seasons on injured reserve with back and knee injuries. Last year, he had 21 receptions for 244 yards as the Bears' fourth receiver.

"Certainly, he would be very interested in Baltimore," said agent Ken Sarnoff, who added that Robinson is his best shape since 1999.

Ravens officials described the preliminary discussion as "positive."

But there is a possibility that Robinson might not make it to the Ravens. He is scheduled to meet with the Arizona Cardinals on Tuesday and the Oakland Raiders on Wednesday.

Since the Ravens are preparing for the draft at the end of next week, they won't be able to see him until the following week. The Cardinals, who lost Sanders and two other receivers in free agency, could make a push for Robinson because Arizona personnel chief Rod Graves was involved with drafting him when he was with the Bears.

The Ravens have connections with Robinson, too. Offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh held the same position in Chicago during Robinson's rookie season in 1998, and Robinson's wife is from the Baltimore area.

"It's a good situation for him [in Baltimore]," Sarnoff said.

The Ravens, however, are not as desperate for a receiver after signing Sanders. Despite coming off a career-low 34 catches last season, he has still averaged 61 catches over his eight-year career.

Just as important for the Ravens, Sanders is expected to provide guidance to a receiving corps whose average age is 24.

"My practice is to get ready for the game, to be a guy in the locker room that guys can come talk to if they want to and just to be productive as a person and a player," Sanders said. "I've been a mentor to younger guys before. I'm going to be an ear and a voice when I need to."

Ravens coach Brian Billick said: "We were going to be very careful in who we brought into this mix of what we think is an excellent young team, and Frank is at the top of this list."

General manager Ozzie Newsome said adding a veteran receiver was a must this offseason because the decision not to sign Antonio Freeman last season might have hurt the development of the young receivers.

"Even though we allowed our young guys to work and to grow, having a mentor sometimes is very good for them," he said.

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