Free agent kicker Graham set to sign, battle Cundiff

Free agent Graham set to sign, battle Cundiff

June 02, 2010|By Jamison Hensley and Ken Murray, The Baltimore Sun

Free-agent kicker Shayne Graham arrived in Baltimore on Wednesday, moving one step closer to signing with the Ravens.

Graham appears set to take a physical with the team once the sides reach an agreement on the expected one-year contract.

Although the deal hasn't been finalized after two days of talks, a Ravens official said he would be "shocked" if the team didn't strike a deal with the NFL's fourth-most accurate kicker. Graham, who has kicked for the Cincinnati Bengals for the past seven seasons, would compete against Billy Cundiff to become the Ravens' kicker this season.

In addressing the Graham situation after Wednesday's rookie minicamp, coach John Harbaugh said, "Shayne is a guy who we've in contact throughout and we're interested in. We'll just have to see how it plays out in the next number of days."

Harbaugh declined to say what's holding up the deal with Graham. Attempts to reach Graham were unsuccessful.

"We're just in a process of trying to upgrade every position, and the kicking position being one of those," Harbaugh said.

Ravens officials started talking to Graham in late March, but there are two reasons why it's taken months for the sides to close a deal.

1. The Ravens wanted to wait until June because it increases their chances of getting a better compensatory pick in next year's draft. Any unrestricted free agent signed before June 1 counts against a team in the NFL's formula for assigning compensatory picks. At this point, the Ravens have lost two unrestricted free agents (Dwan Edwards and Justin Bannan) and signed only one (Cory Redding). If the Ravens signed Graham before June 1, they might not receive a compensatory pick in 2011.

2. Graham was a free agent since March, but the Ravens couldn't immediately sign him June 1 because of NFL rules. As a result of Graham being a free agent on June 1 (because the Ravens decided to wait), an NFL spokesman told The Baltimore Sun that the Bengals had the right to tender him a contract worth 110 percent of his prior salary. But the Bengals declined to do so, which allowed Graham to remain a free agent. Still, the Ravens could sign him only after June 1.

The Ravens don't want the arrival of Graham to seem like a slight on Cundiff. Without being asked about Cundiff on Wednesday, Harbaugh praised the kicker who helped stabilize that position last season.

"I think Billy's had a tremendous offseason," Harbaugh said. "If you look at the way he kicked during the season, I thought he had a very good season, especially coming in like he did. He hadn't been kicking for a couple of years. So, Billy Cundiff is a guy who can definitely kick in this league."

Harbaugh added, "Now, you add competition to the mix, two guys who have a good solid, mature mindset and can handle pressure. And we'll see how it shakes out. That's something we would like to do. We always like to have competition."

Meanwhile, Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb didn't provide a real timetable for when he expects to return from season-ending knee surgery when he spoke to reporters for the first time this offseason.

Webb tore the ACL in his right knee on punt coverage in the team's Dec. 20 home game against the Bears. Under normal circumstances, he said, it takes between seven and nine months to get back on the field.

That means the best-case scenario would be a return in late July (seven months) and a worst-case scenario in late September. Webb was non-committal, though.

"I don't even know the schedule to be ahead of the schedule," he said after a morning passing camp for rookies. "I'm not ahead of schedule. I'm on schedule."

Webb estimated he was operating at 60-65 percent of his normal backpedal speed, and said that his most discomfort was coming out of the backpedal.

"Everything I'm doing is about 65 ... slow, not trying to hurt it again," he said. "No swelling. [trainer Bill Tessendorf is] doing a great job with it."

Webb, 24, said he works with Tessendorf every day and has missed only two days this offseason to attend his grandfather's funeral. He looked thicker through his chest and said he has been increasing his strength.

"I've gotten so much stronger," he said. "I can tell in my body I feel great. I can't wait to get out there with my teammates."

Webb also said he would be "bigger, stronger, faster this year," and that he was "way smarter this year."

The hardest part of the process, he said, was "watching the other guys run and get better and I can't."

Webb, a third-round draft pick last year out of Nicholls State, played in 14 games for the Ravens, starting four. Two days after getting hurt against Chicago, he was placed on injured reserve and underwent surgery.

He acknowledged he is anxious to get back to full speed and rejoin his teammates on the practice field.

"Now, I want to go right now," Webb said. "It's called a trick knee, so it might feel good, but it ain't always good."

Notes: Ramon Harewood hasn't been cleared for practice yet, but the rookie offensive tackle was participating in individual drills at Wednesday's rookie minicamp. Harewood, the first NFL player from Barbados, damaged the soft tissue in his knee on May 8. "We've got our fingers crossed for next week," coach John Harbaugh said of the sixth-round draft pick … George Kokinis, the Ravens' new Senior Personnel Assistant, watched practice off to the side. He rejoined the Ravens after an 11-month run as the Cleveland Browns' general manager. … Dominic Randolph, an undrafted rookie quarterback out of Holy Cross, is receiving a four-day tryout with the Ravens because they need an arm for rookie minicamp. Randolph, a two-time Patriot League offensive player of the year, struggled during his second day, throwing three interceptions. … There were 24 players who participated in rookie minicamp, which runs through Thursday.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

ken.murray@baltsun.com

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