Ravens sign Ogden to $55M, seven-year contract

OWINGS MILLS - In a transaction that triggers an influx of cash into the bank account of All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden and salary-cap relief for the Baltimore Ravens to retain other players, Ogden signed a seven-year contract worth nearly $55 million Thursday afternoon.

The seven-time Pro Bowl selection is assured $20 million in guaranteed compensation over the next two years split between $10 million upon signing the deal and $10 million in 2005 in addition to low base salaries each year, according to NFL Players Association documents. The 6-foot-9, 345-pound blocker remains the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL and this contract likely assures he'll retire in Baltimore.

The Ravens drafted Ogden, 30, with their first pick in franchise history prior to their inaugural season in 1996 after leaving Cleveland, selecting him fourth overall out of UCLA instead of star-crossed running back Lawrence Phillips.

Ravens senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne confirmed that Ogden signed the contract Thursday without adding any financial details according to the team's custom.
Ogden's new contract follows cornerback Chris McAlister signing a seven-year, $55 million deal earlier this month. McAlister's contract includes $17.5 million in signing bonuses split between this year and 2005 with $10 million to sign and $7.5 million next year.

General manager Ozzie Newsome indicated when McAlister signed that retaining cornerback Gary Baxter, who's set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season, was a major priority for the team.

Baxter, who along with All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis and Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap, is represented by agent David Dunn, could possibly command another $10 million signing bonus. Heap's rookie contract expires after the 2005 season. Lewis is under contract through 2008.

The Ravens will have decisions to make regarding inside linebacker Ed Hartwell, center Casey Rabach, offensive guard Bennie Anderson and wide receiver Travis Taylor after the season. All are slated to become unrestricted free agents after the 2004 season. However, Ogden's contract will allow the Ravens additional space underneath the salary cap to re-sign several of those players.

When McAlister signed his contract, agent Mitch Frankel said that he hopes to negotiate a new deal for Pro Bowl runner Jamal Lewis after this season. Lewis is under contract through next season.

Ogden, who declared he won't play Sunday against the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles because of a pulled hamstring that might keep him out three to four weeks, has made the Pro Bowl every year since 1997.

Ogden has started 129 games and helped Jamal Lewis rush for a league-high 2,066 yards in 2003, including a single-game record of 295 yards against the Cleveland Browns.

Ogden is considered a future lock for the Hall of Fame as a first-ballot selection five years after he retires.

NOTES: Offensive tackle Orlando Brown, who was twice flagged for personal fouls involving new Eagles defensive end Jevon Kearse during last January's playoff loss to Tennessee, said there's no chance of him losing his temper and repeating that meltdown.

"I'm a different player now," Brown said. "He didn't say anything bad to me or anything like that. He just said, 'I'm crazy.' I hear that a lot: 'He's crazy. He's crazy.' I know I ain't crazy. Everybody's crazy who plays football. This is a crazy game." ...

Rookie wide receiver Devard Darling, the team's third-round draft pick, has developed a case of plantar fasciatis in his heel.

"It hurts, man," said Darling, who's listed as questionable.

Because of a quadriceps injury in training camp, Darling has been limited to three games and two receptions for five yards.

"It's been hard on me, but I got to deal with it," Darling said. "I'm going to practice hard and try to get healthy. When my opportunity comes, I got to be there and be ready." …
Ravens coach Brian Billick weighed in Thursday on Philadelphia's notoriously rabid fans: "There are a lot of tough towns - 'The Black Hole' in Oakland is tough - but Philadelphia fans will kick the hell out of Oakland fans. They are tough and its' a tough place to play." …

The Ravens added rookie B.J. Sams (back) to the injury report with a probable listing, but the AFC's leading punt returner is expected to be fine for Sunday's game.

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

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