Ravens Sign Receiver Bennett To 1-year Deal

Team Adds Former Titan After Trying Out Three Others

July 25, 2009|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,edward.lee@baltsun.com

The void left by the sudden retirement of Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason has been partially filled by another former Tennessee Titan.

The club announced a one-year deal with Drew Bennett after the 30-year-old veteran completed a tryout with three other receivers Friday morning and passed a physical later that afternoon.

"At this time of year, it's good to be able to pick up a player who has been very productive in the league, and that includes against our defense," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. "Drew has been very competitive against us. We obviously liked his workout today. We wanted to make sure he was healthy and that he still had the things we've seen against us and on film."

Before climbing into a car waiting to transport him from the team's training facility in Owings Mills to take his physical, Bennett - who met with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns and Titans this offseason - said he thought he did what was necessary in the workout.

"I'm used to it now," Bennett said. "[I've] been to a couple of these, but I thought it went well. I feel good, I feel healthy, I feel strong, all the corny stuff you're supposed to say when you have a workout. But I feel like I'm in good shape, and it went well. I caught the ball well. I feel comfortable."

Bennett, whose deal is worth the veteran minimum ($745,000), beat out former Seattle Seahawk D.J. Hackett, former Detroit Lion Chris Hannon and rookie Justin Brown at Friday's workout.

Hackett, 28, who has caught 118 passes for 1,575 yards and nine touchdowns in five seasons, was thought to be Bennett's primary competitor. But Hackett sounded glum about his prospects after the workout.

"I'm going back home," he said. "The workout went good. Just running routes. Everything went fine."

Bennett, 6 feet 5 and 196 pounds, joins Ernie Wheelwright as the tallest wide receiver on the Ravens' roster and provides the offense with a big red-zone target, something it has lacked for years.

In eight years, Bennett has caught 307 passes for 4,412 yards and 28 touchdowns. He had his best season in 2004, when he made 80 receptions for 1,247 yards and 11 touchdowns with the Titans.

But in his past two seasons - both with the St. Louis Rams - he caught a combined 34 passes for 379 yards and three touchdowns. Bennett broke a bone in his left foot in the season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles in September and missed the remainder of the season.

Bennett, who was waived by the Rams two years into a six-year, $30 million deal, said the recovery process was lengthy but insisted that the foot is completely healed.

"I thought it was going to be six to eight weeks, and really it was bothering me all the way up until February," he said. "It took a little while to get back into where I don't feel it at all. It's been probably three months now since I've had any problems with it or felt it at all."

Bennett's medical history did not seem to scare off the Ravens.

"Drew's situation is a lot like [tight end] L.J. Smith, who we added earlier this offseason," Newsome said. "Both are proven veterans coming off injuries, and they are looking for the opportunity to resurrect their careers."

Bennett could bolster a receiving corps gutted this month by Mason's decision to retire. Without Mason, who led the Ravens in receiving in three of the past four seasons, the offense is left with Mark Clayton, Demetrius Williams, Marcus Smith and Kelley Washington - a foursome who combined for 55 receptions and four touchdowns last season.

Like many Ravens fans, Bennett said he hopes Mason changes his mind.

"D-Mase is still a good friend of mine, so I would love a chance - especially coming to a team with new guys - to be able to have somebody that you're comfortable with right off the bat," Bennett said. " ... But I think D-Mase will find his way. He's always been very passionate, and I think if he's ready to take the next step in his life, then so be it. And if he's not, then he'll be back.":

Note: : With rookies reporting Monday to training camp, the Ravens have two unsigned draft picks: offensive tackle Michael Oher (first round) and defensive end-linebacker Paul Kruger (second round). It is believed that the Ravens are closer to signing Oher than Kruger.

Baltimore Sun reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.

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