Ravens pick up K. Johnson

Taking trade route to upgrade at receiver, team gets veteran from Jags for 4th-round pick

Billick lauds his `proven production'

Ex-Brown averages 66 catches, will start alongside T. Taylor

NFL Draft

April 26, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

A month after their bitter divorce with Terrell Owens, the Ravens finally made a connection with a big-play receiver yesterday.

The Ravens again went the trade route, acquiring veteran Kevin Johnson from the Jacksonville Jaguars for a fourth-round pick in yesterday's NFL draft.

This time, however, they won't have to worry about their big catch stiff-arming them the way Owens did.

"I had heard about the trade but I didn't want to believe it because it was a perfect scenario," Johnson said. "I am too excited to tell you how excited I am."

The addition of Johnson marks the most significant upgrade for the team's passing attack, which ranked last in the NFL in 2003 and had been reeling since Owens had his trade to the Ravens nullified in March.

Though not as flashy as Owens, Johnson has built a reputation as being one of the league's most consistent receivers. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound veteran has averaged 66 catches a season over his five-year career, is signed through 2005 at $1.4 million per season and will start immediately alongside Travis Taylor.

The deal was a pleasant surprise for the Ravens on the second day of the draft, which usually produces more long-term projects than polished products.

While their fan base was clamoring about their not using a second-round pick on a receiver, Ravens officials quietly pulled off a trade for Johnson, a possession receiver who may lack great speed but runs solid routes and has dependable hands.

"I don't know what other veteran that might have come available that would have been any more attractive," coach Brian Billick said. "We have never brought in a receiver with this type of consistent, proven production. You can't look at the numbers and not recognize that consistency in production.

"That's what drew us to him, and he's a great pickup. You weren't going to get this productivity in this draft short of a top 15 pick."

A top 15 pick actually set the trade for Johnson in motion. By selecting the University of Washington's Reggie Williams ninth overall Saturday, the Jaguars were willing to part with Johnson, who would have been bumped down to a backup.

But with the Ravens, he becomes the most distinguished receiver on the team. Johnson's 58 catches last season were four more than the Ravens' current receiving corps combined.

Johnson headlines a new-look receivers corps that gained a couple of developmental players from the draft in Devard Darling (third round) and Clarence Moore (sixth).

This influx of talent probably signals the departure of Frank Sanders, who likely will be released no later than June. The nine-year veteran caught only 14 passes last season after signing a four-year, $8.8 million deal.

"[Johnson] kind of completes the package," quarterback Kyle Boller said. "The organization has put it on my shoulders now. They have always done a good job of putting a great cast around me."

The Ravens have been waiting six months to acquire Johnson.

In November, the Cleveland Browns abruptly placed Johnson - their leading receiver at the time - on waivers. The Ravens were among 16 teams that put in claims for Johnson, but the Jaguars got him because they had the worst record of the teams.

Browns officials said Johnson's selfishness and poor blocking prompted the release.

Then-Browns president Carmen Policy said Johnson's reaction to being benched gave him a "bad vibe." It was so bad, in the Browns' eyes, that the club was willing to dismiss a player it had committed $3.5 million to in a signing bonus before the 2002 season.

The Ravens said Johnson has no character issues that concern them.

"There's not much that happens in Cleveland that I don't know about and why," said Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, a Hall of Fame tight end who played for the Browns.

Johnson, who had no incidents during his brief stint in Jacksonville, said there was no truth to the accusations.

"You see Carmen Policy is no longer with the Browns and Coach [Butch] Davis has full authority," Johnson said. "I think anyone that knows me knows that I never hurt anyone. I am a team guy."

When asked if he knew that the Ravens' season opener was in Cleveland, Johnson said: "You better believe I know it. To be able to go to a rival team and have an opportunity to go against your former team, you can't draw a better picture."

Ravens' draft picks

Rd. Player, Pos. School

2 Dwan Edwards, DE Oregon State

3 Devard Darling, WR Wash. State

5 Roderick Green, LB C. Missouri State

6 Josh Harris, QB Bowling Green 6 Clarence Moore, WR Northern Ariz.

7 Derek Abney, WR Kentucky

7 Brian Rimpf, OT East Carolina

Draft by position

Defensive back 58

Linebacker 31

Wide receiver 31

Defensive end 24

Offensive tackle 22

Defensive tackle 21

Quarterback 17

Running back 15

Tight end 14

Guard 11

Center 10

Place-kicker 3

Punter 3

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