Romanowski lands with the Raiders

They may not have a head coach yet and they still have plenty of work to do to get under the league-mandated salary cap in time for the Thursday midnight deadline. Yet that didn't prevent the Raiders from conducting business as usual, which included the signing of free agent linebacker Bill Romanowski.

Romanowski, who spent the last six seasons with the Denver Broncos before asking for and getting released from his contract, inked a six-year deal with Oakland that reportedly included a $1.3 million signing bonus. The 14-year NFL veteran is expected to be the Raiders starting strongside linebacker when the 2002 season begins. ''There's a certain feeling around the league about the Raiders, which you all know,'' said Romanowski. ''I didn't know what to think when I got here, but I tell you what, after I've been here for a day I realized one thing and it's really the only thing that matters in this league, is they want to do whatever it takes to win. That's really what I'm about and hopefully I can help their team achieve that.'' Romanowski has won two Super Bowl rings during his career, one with Denver and another with San Francisco. The Raiders are his fourth NFL team and likely his last, though even at age 35 Romanowski looks capable of fulfilling the length of his contract with Oakland. ''His first comment to us is he wants another ring,'' said Raiders senior assistant Bruce Allen. ''We have over 100 people in this building who want another ring or a first ring. We think Bill's going to be a great addition.'' The 6'4'', 245-pound Romanowski has been one of the league's most intense players since first entering the league as a third-round draft pick in 1988. While other teams have had more infamous run-ins with Romanowski, Raider fans best remember him for the hit he laid on quarterback Rich Gannon last December during a 23-17 loss to the Broncos. Romanowski came in free and leveled Gannon with a jaw-rattling blow that left Gannon dazed. Over the years Romanowski has left similar impressions on the Raiders, which is why owner Al Davis didn't hesitate to open his wallet to pluck the fiery linebacker off the free agent market. ''When I was released last week I made a call,'' said Romanowski. ''It was to Al Davis. I left a message with his secretary for him to call me back. He didn't call me back but his secretary called me back and she said, 'Al thinks you would look good in silver and black.' I called her back again and said, 'let him know that I would do anything to be a Raider and I want to help him win another Super Bowl' He called me later that night, we talked for abotu a half hour. I got off the phone thinking, this guy's a football guy. This guy truly cares about his players and I'm excited at the opportunity to go out there and see what this organization is about and to possibly be a part of it.'' Romanowski had been a started for the Broncos for all six seasons in Denver but asked out of his contract after a meeting with head coach Mike Shanahan. According to Romanowski, the Broncos wanted to give his time in practice with the starting defense to Ian Gold, a third-year player. ''They wanted me to be a role player and they wanted me to give up my reps in training camp to a younger kid to see if he could perform at a level they think he can,'' said Romanowski. ''And to me, I know what I can do and I know what I can bring to a team and I want the opportunity to bring that here. I'm going to get that opportunity.'' Meanwhile, Allen said the Raiders search for a new head coach will continue likely through this weekend's NFL Combine in Indianapolis. ''The head coach search is in progress but there's nothing to announce,'' said Allen. ''As you can see we're busy with the business of getting ready for the season.'' Allen said the team is continuing to work to get under the salary cap. At the same time, he said, the Raiders are also working on getting a deal done with free agent defensive tackle Grady Jackson. Jackson, Oakland's top defensive lineman, is expected to test the free agent market but said on Wednesday he would give the Raiders every chance to match any offer he receives. ''Hopefully I can stay here another five or six years,'' Jackson said as he walked out of the Raiders facilities in Alameda. ''I hope we can get (a deal) done before the free agency deadline. I guess it's up to the Raiders if they want me around or not.''

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