Ravens' Clayton ends holdout

WESTMINSTER -- Baltimore Ravens first-round draft pick Mark Clayton's five-day holdout is officially ending as he's expected to sign a five-year contract worth $8.2 million this morning, according to his agent. The wide receiver's contract includes an additional $2.5 million in an escalator clause in the fifth year.

"The deal did improve," said agent Ben Dogra in an e-mail Friday night. "The $8.2 million was agreed upon a couple of days ago. The issue centered on the escalator and guaranteed portion of the deal.

"All negotiations are tough and my partner [Jim Steiner] and I had some tough moments. In the end, Mark is happy and ready to proceed ahead with the deal."

Under the NFL slotting principle, the consensus All-American from Oklahoma and 22nd overall pick was projected to sign a contract sandwiched between the five-year, $8.45 million deal of Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Matt   Jones (No. 21 overall) and the five-year, $7.8 million deal of Oakland Raiders cornerback Fabian Washington (No. 23 overall).

Clayton eventually received the guaranteed money he was seeking, but not until the end of negotiations, according to Dogra.

Earlier in the day, Ravens coach Brian Billick unleashed a verbal assault against Clayton's representatives.

Clayton missed his 10th practice of training camp Friday and Billick blamed the agents for stalling while praising the Ravens' negotiating team of general manager Ozzie Newsome and vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty.

"If you're not in camp, I don't think your representation is doing a good job," Billick said. "The easiest thing in the world is to stay out of camp. I don't even know who his agents are. I don't even really care at this point.

"It's a sad scenario you see over and over again. The kid is going to be here, make no mistake. In no uncertain terms, it's hurting this football team. Anybody who wants to justify it the other way is mistaken."

Under the NFL slotting principle, Clayton was supposed to receive a five-year, $8.125 million contract. However, the Jaguars gave Jones lucrative escalator clauses that could raise his base salary by $2.7 million in the fourth year of his deal depending on his number of catches and touchdowns. That deal likely played a major factor in the Clayton discussions.

"When you wait this long, the slotting is done," Billick said. "Now somehow you've got to justify why you stayed out. What happens is you have to manufacture some peripheral things that don't mean anything to justify, ‘Oh, I see you got more.'

"It's frustrating because we've got to get ready for a season. It's the business part of it. I've always said that there is a time for pay and a time for play. Right now, it's time to play, period."

Clayton was the lone unsigned pick among the bottom half of the first round.

The Ravens will likely be somewhat relieved that the holdout didn't last any longer even though they are running an abbreviated camp that breaks Aug. 19.

The Ravens have more experience than they want with holdouts, including four consecutive years of contract disputes with draft picks, and dating all the way back to Peter Boulware's five-week absence in 1997.

Clayton's agents kept Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie out for 98 days in 2002.

If Clayton had missed much more time, he would have further jeopardized his chance of becoming a rookie starter.

Clarence Moore is playing opposite veteran Derrick Mason and Clayton would likely be the No. 3 receiver and play in the slot once he reports.

Billick continues to praise the 6-foot-6, 22--pound Moore, who represents a contrast to the 5-10, 192-pound Mason and 5-10, 195-pound Clayton.

"You don't want a receiving corps of all the same guys unless all those same guys are Jerry Rice," Billick said. "You'd like diversity. Clarence has been outstanding in camp. He's heavier. He's faster. He's stronger and he's more confident all across the board. He carries himself in a totally different way than he did one year ago."

Meanwhile, Billick expressed major reservations about Clayton's durability considering the hamstring problems that plagued him during minicamps and kept him off the field.

"You saw it in the T.O. [Terrell Owens] situation, if a guy is not there from the beginning of camp when he does report, he gets very anxious and wants to catch up and gets hurt and he pull something," Billick said. "Mark Clayton hasn't gotten past two days worth of workouts since we've had him. I am very concerned about that.

"Not only when he comes back does he not jump right into it, I've got to spend a couple days making sure that he's not going to get hurt. Now, I am going to lose those days as well. It is what it is."

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

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