Billick: Offer to Clayton is firm

Team officials say they're $50,000-$60,000 apart

top pick still a holdout

Ravens

August 05, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Coach Brian Billick said the Ravens have delivered their best offer to first-round draft pick Mark Clayton, one that won't change no matter how long the rookie receiver's holdout lasts.

"It never has, it never will," Billick said. "It didn't with Kyle Boller. It didn't with Peter Boulware. It hasn't with anyone else. So, you either want to be here or you don't."

Two team officials estimated that the sides are between $50,000 and $60,000 apart.

That small margin has caused Clayton to miss his fourth day of training camp and remain one of nine unsigned first-round picks.

In calling Clayton to accountability, Billick laid out the strict parameters of what the 22nd overall selection should receive.

"Take No. 21 and No. 23, add them up together and cut it in half," Billick said. "Anything beyond that, it's hard to understand."

Using those calculations, Clayton's deal should be worth approximately $8.1 million over five years with $5.6 million in guaranteed bonuses.

Those numbers follow the NFL's unofficial slotting philosophy, which says a player's contract should fall between what the player ahead of him and behind him received.

Ben Dogra, Clayton's agent, described the talks as "slower progress at this time" in an e-mail but did not elaborate.

What makes the slow negotiations peculiar is that cornerback Fabian Washington, the 23rd pick in the draft, signed on July 26 and Matt Jones, the 21st pick, agreed on Tuesday.

So, if the framework of Clayton's slot has been established, why is it taking this long for the former University of Oklahoma playmaker to sign?

"It's a legitimate question because I have the same one," Billick said.

Both sides have a history of not budging when it comes to bargaining.

The Ravens have held firm on deals with their top picks, from quarterback Kyle Boller (three-day holdout in 2003) to linebacker Peter Boulware (five weeks in 1997). And Clayton's agents, Dogra and Jim Steiner, didn't buckle when they represented Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Bryant McKinnie (98-day holdout in 2002).

At this point, Clayton is the only unsigned pick in the bottom half of this year's first round, and his holdout has already cost him. He has missed eight practices and countless meetings.

"It's hard because he's missing practicing in pads, something he hasn't done since college," receivers coach David Shaw said. "He's missing making mistakes and being corrected."

Shaw has talked with Clayton on the phone, updating him on what the Ravens are doing in practice, whether it's two-minute drills or red-zone work. He has stayed away from discussing the business side.

"When he shows up, hopefully he's ready to go because we've got to get rolling pretty soon," Shaw said. "We kind of put this plan together through the offseason, and he's a big part of it."

What Shaw likely neglected to say is how the rest of the Ravens' receiving corps is faring.

Clarence Moore, who is starting opposite Derrick Mason, and Patrick Johnson are having impressive starts in camp. Randy Hymes and Devard Darling have been solid, too.

Before he was a no-show at McDaniel College, Clayton was expected to be the team's No. 3 receiver and play in the slot.

"Guys have stepped in and taken advantage of it," Shaw said. "We still would love to add Mark to that mix, but guys have filled up that hole pretty quickly."

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