Baxter, Ravens in same corner

Bidding to re-sign, he's not open to a switch to safety

Pro Football

February 11, 2005|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

The Ravens remain in negotiations with Gary Baxter, the team's biggest offseason priority, and while the sides may not have agreed on a contract yet, they are in accord on one issue. Baxter is indeed a cornerback.

Baxter said last week that if he re-signs with the Ravens, he will do so as a cornerback only and will not be receptive to a switch to safety, something a league source told The Sun the Ravens have discussed if they are able to add another cornerback through the draft or free agency (possibly the Washington Redskins' Fred Smoot).

Team officials, though, disputed the notion that they are considering moving Baxter to safety. Baxter is set to become a free agent March 2.

"We have no predisposed plans that Gary is a safety," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "If Gary wants to focus in on corner, we understand that. If we re-sign Gary, it would certainly be to that end. But I'm not going to pigeonhole myself with any athlete to say this athlete will do this or that. ... "

Baxter said he is optimistic he will sign a deal with the Ravens before free agency begins. Through his four seasons, Baxter has switched positions in the secondary four times, and he began the 2003 season at safety.

Baxter started all 16 games at cornerback in 2004. "I'm not going back to safety," Baxter said. "And you can print that as big as day."

Baxter registered 86 tackles last year, third best on the team. Cornerbacks generally make more money than safeties, and the Ravens would likely have to pay Baxter as a cornerback, including a double-digit signing bonus, even if he does eventually wind up at safety.

"I reserve the right to move Ray Lewis to safety if I think it's going to help us win," Billick said. "We're going to put our best 11 on the field and whatever it takes to win. So can I make a blanket statement that Gary Baxter will never play safety? No. Can I make a blanket statement that Ed Reed will never play corner? No.

"If Gary would like to play safety, we'd certainly entertain that. But we want Gary back."

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