Clayton, Ravens agree to terms

Deal for 1st-round pick is five years, $8.2 million

"Without a doubt, it was one of the toughest things I had to deal with in my life."

August 06, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Mark Clayton's rocky five-day holdout ended last night, when the first-round pick agreed in principle on a five-year, $8.2 million deal with the Ravens.

The rookie receiver reached terms at approximately 9:30 p.m. and plans to report to training camp today, when he will officially sign his contract.

The final snag was resolved when the sides signed off on an escalator clause in the final season that is worth up to $2.5 million in additional salary depending on how well he plays his first four seasons.

"Without a doubt, it was one of the toughest things I had to deal with in my life," Clayton said less than an hour after the agreement was finalized. "Coming to Baltimore and experiencing the minicamps, I was so excited to be at training camp and bond with the team. Not to do that and watch clips on TV, that really hurt.

"I just hope now when I come on the field that I don't get booed."

If there are boos, they will have been born of frustration that heightened as Clayton missed all 10 practices of the first week.

Many questioned the reasoning behind his absence, including coach Brian Billick on a daily basis, because there was no substantial gap between the sides. "You either want to be here or you don't," Billick said yesterday.

According to Clayton, the total money of the deal had been agreed upon a couple of days ago but the sides had to "fight through some structure issues." The sticking point was adding an escalator clause similar to the one given to the 21st pick, Jaguars receiver Matt Jones.

That part of the contract is triggered by the number of catches he makes each season.

"I hired my agents because they've been in the business 20 years," Clayton said, "and put all my trust in them."

Under the NFL's unofficial slotting philosophy, the total money given to Clayton fell in between the deals signed by the picks at No. 21 (Jones' five-year, $8.45 million contract) and No. 23 (Fabian Washington's five-year, $7.8 million).

The escalator clause was just under what Jacksonville gave to Jones ($2.7 million).

"It was a fair deal for the Ravens and a fair deal for Mark," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "In the landscape of this league, there are holdouts. You try not to have them, but they happen every year."

A key cog in the Ravens' attempt to revitalize their long-struggling passing game, Clayton is expected to enter camp as the No. 3 receiver behind Derrick Mason and Clarence Moore. He likely will have a chance to compete with Moore for a starting position.

Rated among the Ravens' top 10 prospects, Clayton fell to the bottom third of the first round because he lacked ideal size (5 feet 10). Still, he holds nearly every school receiving record at the University of Oklahoma, from career receptions (221) to yards (3,241) to touchdowns (31).

"He brings quickness, speed and burst to our receiving corps," Newsome said. "That's an ingredient that we really don't have."

Now that the painful process is over, here comes another hurdle.

Before Clayton agreed, Billick indicated that he wouldn't rush Clayton onto the field once he signed. His worries stem from the fact that Clayton missed nearly half of the offseason practices with hamstring problems.

"If a guy is not here from the beginning of camp, he gets very anxious when he does report, wants to catch up and gets hurt," Billick said after yesterday's morning practice. "And Mark Clayton hasn't gotten past two days worth of workouts since we've had him. I am very concerned about that."

Clayton said he has fully recovered from that injury.

"I feel great," Clayton said. "I'm ready to see how great I feel once I get on the field."

Clayton said he's ready to prove he is worth the wait.

With the Ravens scrimmaging the Washington Redskins today, Clayton will likely take the field on Monday at the earliest.

"It's always about earning no matter what you want to accomplish in life," he said. "I'm a hard worker and I plan to show that."

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