Ravens sign Punter Leo Araguz (UPDATED)

OWINGS MILLS -- Leo Araguz is the Baltimore Ravens' new punter, signing on for one year as a potential replacement for Dave Zastudil.

Araguz, 35, has a strong track record, but struggled so much early last season after beating out promising rookie Chris Kluwe in training camp that he was released after four games and replaced by veteran Tom Rouen. It's likely that Araguz, who will make a $585,000 base salary, will face competition at training camp from a rookie, and Baltimore worked out two college punters last week at its training complex.

Araguz averaged 46 yards in the season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but averaged only 33 yards per punt against the Washington Redskins. He averaged 40.2 yards last season on 18 punts with a long of 53 yards.

The Ravens auditioned Philadelphia Eagles restricted free agent Dirk Johnson last week along with free agent Toby Gowin before deciding to sign Araguz.

The Ravens pursued Carolina Panthers standout Jason Baker, who re-signed with Carolina for a two-year, $1.8 million contract that includes a $400,000 signing bonus.

Araguz entered the league in 1996 with the Oakland Raiders after playing collegiately at Stephen F. Austin State University (Texas). He has a 42.6 career average, placing 97 inside the 20 with a career-high boot of 64 yards.

Araguz's other NFL stints are with the Raiders (1996 to 1999), Detroit Lions (2001) and Minnesota Vikings (2003. In 1997 with the Raiders, he averaged a career-high 45 yards with 28 punts downed inside the 20 with just six touchbacks.

Araguz, who signed a one-year contract, fills the void on the roster created by Zastudil signing a five-year, $8 million contract with the Cleveland Browns.

"Leo has been a very solid punter in the league for a number of years, and I like the experience he can bring to this team," Ravens special teams coordinator Frank Gansz Jr. said. "In addition to that, he is a steady and consistent holder."

Araguz is versatile and has even punted and kicked off. Somewhat undersized at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Araguz has experienced long absences from the NFL where he has waited at his Texas home for a telephone call.

"I am the utility guy," Araguz told Seattle reporters last summer. "I don't fit the profile of the normal punter in the NFL. I'm not the average 6-2, 6-3, 215-pounder. I kind of fly under the radar screen. The years I've sat out, those are the years I've pretty much been humbled.

"You get to really experience the NFL from the outside, the cuts, the releases and the different politics that go into it and not being able to get a serious look even though your stats pretty much speak for themselves. It's just a matter of being patient, being persistent and working hard."

NOTES: North Carolina State defensive tackle John McCargo will visit the Ravens' facility on Monday, according to his agent. McCargo visited the St. Louis Rams on Wednesday and has visits scheduled with the Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs. "The Ravens really love John McCargo, especially Rex Ryan," said McCargo's agent, Hadley Engelhard. "His stock is skyrocketing." ... The Ravens will also host top-flight Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata on Monday after meeting with USC offensive guard Fred Matua on Easter Sunday. … The Ravens recently hosted Florida State cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who has recovered from a major knee injury. … Baltimore plans to meet with Penn State cornerback Alan Zemaitis and Tennessee defensive back Jason Allen. … Baltimore met with Hofstra wideout Marques Colston (6-foot-5, 225 pounds, 4.48 speed) at the scouting combine. He has visited the New York Jets. ... The Ravens are scheduled to report July 30 for their annual training camp at McDaniel College.

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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