Ravens sign McAlister to seven-year contract

LANDOVER - Shutdown cornerbacks are a rarity in the NFL, and the Baltimore Ravens acknowledged that fact by locking up franchise player Chris McAlister to a seven-year contract. <br><br> A Pro Bowl selection last season who skipped training camp to protest the franchise tag, McAlister signed his contract Saturday one day before the Ravens played the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.

The Ravens didn't release contract terms, but it's believed that McAlister, 27, is now one of the highest-paid cornerbacks and defensive players in the league. McAlister had been seeking a contract that approaches Champ Bailey's seven-year, $63 million deal that included an $18 million signing bonus that makes the Denver Broncos star the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL.

McAlister's agent, Mitch Frankel, didn't return telephone calls Sunday night.

"I think we've shown that you win in this league on defense. Chris can cover some of the better receivers in the league, as he proved he can do last year and has continued to do this year," Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "I think if you're going to have a good defense, you have to have good corners.

"There's no doubt that he's going to be paid as one of the better cornerbacks in the league and one of the better defensive players in the league."

McAlister was scheduled to be paid $7.1 million this season, the average of the top five cornerback salaries, and a 20-percent increase from his $5.962 million salary in 2003.

The 1999 first-round draft pick intercepted three passes last season, returning one 83 yards for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals, along with 52 tackles and 16 pass deflections. He excelled against many of the NFL's top receivers, including Terrell Owens, Torry Holt, Rod Smith, Jimmy Smith and Chad Johnson.

"I had to fight tooth and nail to get it done," McAlister said in a television interview after signing with the Ravens through 2010. "I'm relieved, and I'm happy."

Newsome indicated that the Ravens are involved in one other active negotiation, believed to be a contract extension for All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden that would free up salary-cap room to retain impending free agents. The general manager singled out cornerback Gary Baxter, who's in the final year of his contract, as a priority.

Meanwhile, ESPN reported that the Ravens intend to sign running back Jamal Lewis to a contract extension after the season. Lewis will serve four months in a minimum-security prison, two months in a halfway house and perform 500 hours of community service after pleading guilty Thursday to using a cellular phone to facilitate a drug transaction to resolve his federal drug conspiracy trial.

McAlister, Lewis and special-teams ace Harold Morrow were the game captains.

Because McAlister signed his one-year tender when he reported, the Ravens retain the right to assign the franchise tag.

McAlister intercepted a pass in a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, returning it 51 yards for a touchdown. His 15 interceptions ranks fourth on the Ravens' all-time list.

Newsome said the Ravens started negotiating again with McAlister when he reported in late August, with discussions picking up pace over the last few weeks.

"I think it was more so that Chris wanted to be a Raven with how quickly it came about," said Newsome, also noting that San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker and franchise player Julian Peterson tore his Achilles' tendon Sunday. "With the talk we had, he got the opportunity to understand my position and I got to understand the position he had. The path was cleared for us to get the deal done."

QUICK HITS: Defensive back Corey Fuller said that his trial on felony gambling and firearm charges that was initially scheduled for this week in Tallahassee, Fla., has been postponed until December because the mother of one of his attorneys passed away. ... The Ravens deactivated fullback Ovie Mughelli (hamstring), linebacker T.J. Slaughter (hamstring), center Mike Flynn (broken collarbone), offensive tackle Tony Pashos, wide receiver Devard Darling, tight end Todd Heap (ankle), wide receiver Travis Taylor (groin) and defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin. ...Randy Hymes started again in Taylor's place, with Terry Jones starting for Heap. ...Rookie defensive end Dwan Edwards, the team's second-round draft pick, was activated for the first time in three weeks. ... The Redskins' notable inactives were linebackers LaVar Arrington and Michael Barrow.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times and Ravensinsider.com

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