Cundiff beats Graham in competition for kicking job

Backup quarterback Troy Smith and wide receiver Demetrius Williams also cut

September 04, 2010|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

Billy Cundiff's stay in Baltimore will last a little longer.

The 30-year-old journeyman who ended last season as the Ravens' kicker will begin this season in the same role as Cundiff beat out 32-year-old Shayne Graham, who was cut by the team Saturday.

Cundiff converted 15-of-20 field goals in 14 regular-season and playoff games last year, but the incumbent was thought to be the underdog against Graham, the fourth-most accurate kicker in NFL history who had been unceremoniously released by the Cincinnati Bengals in the offseason.

In the preseason, Cundiff appeared to take a slight lead. In training camp workouts at Westminster when reporters were permitted to watch, he connected on 82 of 96 attempts, a success rate of 85.4 percent. Graham converted 83 of 103 attempts, or 80.5 percent.

In three preseason games — neither kicker got a chance in the Ravens' preseason finale against the St. Louis Rams Thursday night — Cundiff went 3-for-3. Graham was 2-for-3, missing from 50 yards.

In a written statement announcing the organization's roster moves, coach John Harbaugh said Cundiff had played his way onto the team as its primary kicker.

"He won a great competition, and he earned this spot," Harbaugh said. "We've talked about this the entire preseason: Both Billy and Shayne rose to the occasion and performed at high levels. We know Shayne will kick in the league, but we feel very good about the decision to go with Billy."

The team also parted ways with quarterback Troy Smith, who completed 54.0 percent (34 of 63) of his passes for 388 yards this preseason. But the fifth-round pick in 2007 was intercepted twice in a 27-21 loss to the St. Louis Rams in the preseason finale Thursday night, and he was considered expendable after the franchise had signed Marc Bulger in July.

Noting that the Ravens last went with just two quarterbacks in 2006 when the late Steve McNair was backed up by Kyle Boller, general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome said the decision boiled down to adding depth at another position.

"The competition to make our team was very heated, and we decided to keep a position player rather than a third quarterback," Newsome said in a written statement. "We have a number of young guys who made our team who have tremendous upside, plus they can help us win this year."

Another interesting development was the decision to cut wide receiver Demetrius Williams. The fourth-round pick in 2006 could not live up to expectations as a downfield threat, and injuries further hampered him.

In waiving Williams, the organization elected to retain wide receiver Marcus Smith and rookie David Reed. Both Smith and Reed can contribute heavily on special teams.

Another mild surprise involved cornerbacks Travis Fisher and Prince Miller. Domonique Foxworth will miss the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, Fabian Washington, Lardarius Webb and Chris Carr are recovering from their respective ailments, and Cary Williams will miss the first two games of the season after violating the league's personal-conduct policy.

But Fisher is a nine-year veteran who would have been guaranteed a full year's salary if he had been on the opening-day roster. Miller, an undrafted rookie, muffed a punt against the Rams, and both he and Fisher sunk lower on the depth chart after the team acquired Josh Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday.

The Ravens also dealt outside linebacker Antwan Barnes to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for an undisclosed draft pick in 2011.

Barnes, a fourth-round pick in 2007, posted a career-high three sacks in 11 regular-season games last year and was expected to back up starter Terrell Suggs. Barnes finished this preseason with 10 tackles and a ½ sack.

Barnes did not return a request for comment, but via his Twitter account (vikes42), he wrote, "Woooooooo........I had a good run in Baltimore......thank everyone for your support......its a new beginning and I'm ready to be a eagle..."

His absence allowed linebackers Edgar Jones, Jason Phillips and Prescott Burgess — three players who were believed to be on the bubble — to remain with the organization.

The team released cornerbacks K.J. Gerard, Chris Hawkins and Brad Jones, wide receivers Justin Harper and Eron Riley, offensive tackles Joe Reitz and Devin Tyler, guard Bryan Mattison, tight end Davon Drew, running back Curtis Steele and linebacker Albert McClellan.

The team moved offensive tackles Stefan Rodgers (right ankle) and rookie Ramon Harewood (knees), defensive tackle Kelly Talavou (left knee) and guard/center David Hale (bruised tailbone) to injured reserve.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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