It's Official: Baxter a Brown (Updated 8:55PM)

OWINGS MILLS -- Contrary to broadcast reports, cornerback Gary Baxter didn't sign or agree to a new contract with the Baltimore Ravens. Instead, he signed a six-year contract with the Cleveland Browns reportedly worth $30 million that includes a signing bonus in excess of $10 million.<br><br>

While Baltimore area television and radio reports repeatedly claimed that the Ravens' top free agent had agreed to terms that included a $7 million signing bonus, citing sources within the organization, Baxter was actually flying Friday to join the Cleveland Browns.

"I'm very excited about the opportunity to play for the Browns and coach [Romeo] Crennel," Baxter said. "I like the direction the team is headed and I'm really looking forward to playing in front of the Dawg Pound."

A second-round draft pick in 2001 who has started a team-high 46 consecutive games, Baxter has always been one of Browns general manager Phil Savage's favorite players. Savage is the former Ravens' director of player personnel who left after the season to run the Browns.

"Since the very first time I saw Gary at Baylor, I loved the fact that he was big, tough, fast and he could hit," Savage said. "He's also very versatile, and can play corner and even safety if needed. He brings a football temperament and mentality we like and has developed into the consummate professional."

Baxter had already reportedly turned down offer sheets from Baltimore that included signing bonuses of $10 million and $12 million.

The market for cornerbacks is extremely high after Ken Lucas received a $13 million bonus as part of a six-year, $36 million contract with the Carolina Panthers. The Dallas Cowboys paid $10 million in a signing bonus to former Browns corner Anthony Henry.

With Baxter's exit, the Ravens could turn to Washington Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot, a polished cover guy who turned down an extension offer during the season that would have paid him a $10 million signing bonus. The Redskins are still dangling that offer to Smoot.

Tennessee Titans unrestricted free agent Andre Dyson is another option. Dyson isn't known for being very physical, but is only 25 and has a nose for the football.

Former New England standout Ty Law is hobbled with a broken foot, but is still expected to be expensive. Titans cornerback Samari Rolle has visited the Kansas City Chiefs and reportedly wants a $15 million signing bonus. He is probably out of the Ravens' price range.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said the Ravens have no visits planned for the weekend.

NOTES: The Browns have yet to submit an offer on Ravens restricted free agent running back Chester Taylor. ... Linebacker Ed Hartwell left Kansas City without signing and will visit the Arizona Cardinals today, according to his agent. Hartwell is looking for a $10 million signing bonus. ... The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are interested in Ravens free agent linebacker T.J. Slaughter. ... Receiver Travis Taylor completed his visit to the Minnesota Vikings. "Travis Taylor is a player that's intriguing," Vikings coach Mike Tice said. "He's not been explosive in this league, but you look at that offense and see not many people have been." ... Defensive line coach Clarence Brooks attended the University of Miami Pro Day where cornerback Antrell Rolle impressed scouts by covering 40 yards in 4.4 seconds.

As well as a being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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