Ravens weekly wrap up

Todd Heap became the highest-paid tight end in NFL history when he signed a six-year extension with the Ravens. The $30 million deal includes an $11 million signing bonus and keeps Heap from becoming an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

"You put your money where your mouth is," coach Brian Billick said. "You can talk the rhetoric, but when it comes time for a player's situation to be addressed, you step up and make him the highest-paid tight end in the league. He's deserving of that."

Heap's extension will pay him $14.8 million over the first three years and places him in an elite group. Not only does the deal surpass that of the Cleveland Browns' Kellen Winslow for the richest deal for a tight end (six years, $29 million with a $10.8 bonus) but it also ranks among the top 15 receiver contracts of all time.

"I was surprised that it got done as quickly as it did," Heap said.

With the emergence of Heap, the Kansas City Chiefs' Tony Gonzalez and New York Giants' Jeremy Shockey, the value of tight ends has escalated rapidly.

Gonzalez set the standard with his extension in 2002, getting $31 million over seven years with a $10 million signing bonus. The previous high for an NFL tight end signing bonus had been $4.6 million to the Indianapolis Colts' Marcus Pollard in 2001.

Heap has become the prototype for this new generation of tight ends who are their teams' primary targets. He is too big (6-feet-5, 252 pounds) for a cornerback to stop and too fast for a linebacker to cover.

Ravens officials used this agreement to point out how they routinely reward their top-performing players who have a year left on their contracts.

It is believed running back Jamal Lewis is next to receive an extension, with defensive end Tony Weaver to follow. Safety Ed Reed, the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year, likely will have to wait because he has two years remaining on his deal.

"This team is committed to spend every penny of the cap that we can," Billick said. "(But) there's pacing to it, and there's no avoiding it. They will get theirs in the same time sequence that Todd got his."

Heap, 25, who fell to the Ravens with the 31st pick of the 2001 draft, clearly had outplayed his contract. He was the Ravens' leading receiver in 2002 and 2003, earning Pro Bowl trips both times.

His production dropped last season, when he missed 10 games with a severe ankle injury. Still, Heap ranked fourth on the team in catches (27) and second in touchdown receptions (three).

"He is one of the elite playmakers in this league," quarterback Kyle Boller said. "He not only makes me better but our entire offense that much better."

Heap's current focus is getting fully recovered after having offseason surgeries on his ankle and shoulder. The Ravens still expect him to be ready by the regular season, but he could be held out of training camp and half of the preseason.

"I'm putting the hours and effort in to be ready as soon as possible," Heap said.

This agreement proved the Ravens weren't scared off by Heap's health, but that doesn't mean they aren't concerned that his body could break down from all those leaping catches.

Billick said he has advised Heap not to put himself at risk when catching the ball, telling him: "One, it doesn't work. Two, it looks really, really bad and you get hurt. So don't do it anymore."

There was no such flash involved in Heap's celebration of his new deal. He took his wife and 2-year-old daughter to Peter Piper Pizza.

"To be able to stay here for nearly the rest of my career is exciting," Heap said.

NOTES

--Lawyers concluded opening arguments in linebacker Terrell Suggs' felony aggravated assault trial in Phoenix, Ariz. Court officials anticipate the trial being completed by June 30.

The case stems from a fight on March 30, 2003, during a three-on-three basketball tournament.

--There were no unexpected no-shows at the team's mandatory minicamp. Suggs, running back Jamal Lewis (who is completing his federal drug plea bargain at a halfway house in Atlanta) and kicker Matt Stover (personal reasons) were excused.

"That shows our commitment we have to the season," defensive end Tony Weaver said. "We expect big things and right now we're showing it by our attendance at minicamp."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

MEDICAL UPDATE: WR Mark Clayton (hamstring) was limited in the last two minicamps. He is expected to be fully recovered for training camp. ... DE Tony Weaver (leg) did not practice for the last two minicamps. The Ravens said it was just a precautionary measure. ... CB Samari Rolle (hamstring) was injured in the final practice but only sustained a mild strain. ... TE Todd Heap (shoulder and ankle) is still rehabbing and will be limited for most of training camp. ... RB Jamal Lewis (ankle) has been running for the last two months but will be brought along slowly in minicamp. ... FB Alan Ricard (knee) was limited in minicamps. ... RB Musa Smith (leg) has participated in some drills but won't be at full speed until training camp. ... CB Deion Sanders (foot) has participated in individual drills but has had trouble cutting. He could be limited in training camp.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--K Wade Richey probably won't be coming back after inconsistency on kickoffs led him to being inactive for parts of the season.

--LB T.J. Slaughter would seem to fit into the Ravens' plans as a starter at inside linebacker next season.

--QB Kordell Stewart could come back as the No. 3 quarterback if he doesn't receive offers to be the top backup elsewhere.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

--FS Will Demps: RFA; $1.43M/1 yr.

--TE Darnell Dinkins: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.

--WR Randy Hymes: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.

--TE Terry Jones: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.

--NT Ma'ake Kemoeatu: RFA; $1.43M/1 yr.

--LS Joe Maese: UFA; $1.185M/2 yrs, $100,000 SB.

--OG Brian Rimpf: ERFA; $230,000/1 yr.

--RB Chester Taylor: RFA/matched Browns offer; $3/1 yr, $1M SB.

--TE Daniel Wilcox: ERFA; $380,000/1 yr.

--RB/KR B.J. Sams: ERFA; $305,000/1 yr.

--CB Deion Sanders: UFA; $1.5M/1 yr.

--S Chad Williams: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.

--P Dave Zastudil: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.

--DT Matt Zielinski: ERFA; $305,000/1 yr.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

--WR Pat Johnson: FA; terms unknown.

--WR Derrick Mason: FA Titans; $20M/5 yrs, $7M SB.

--LB Jim Nelson: UFA Colts; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--LB Tommy Polley: UFA Rams; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--CB Samari Rolle: FA Titans; $30.5M/6 yrs, $11M SB.

--OG Keydrick Vincent: UFA Steelers; $4.64M/3 yrs, $1.25M SB.

PLAYERS LOST

--OG Bennie Anderson: UFA Vikings; $5.1M/3 yrs $1.5M SB.

--CB Gary Baxter: UFA Browns; $30.5M/6 yrs, $10.5M SB.

--LB Peter Boulware (released).

--OT Ethan Brooks: UFA Jets; terms unknown.

--LB Cornell Brown (failed physical).

--DE Marques Douglas: UFA 49ers; $4.5M/3 yrs, SB unknown.

--DB Corey Fuller (released).

--LB Ed Hartwell: UFA Falcons; $26.25M/6 yrs, $8M bonuses.

--WR Kevin Johnson (released).

--FB Harold Morrow (released).

--C Casey Rabach: UFA Redskins; $13.75/5 yrs, $2.5M SB.

--WR Travis Taylor: UFA Vikings; $2M/2 yrs, SB unknown.

--CB Ray Walls: UFA Cardinals; terms unknown.

--RB Jamel White: UFA Lions; terms unknown.


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