Ravens closing in on goal of signing all 10 picks

Through steady negotiating and relying upon the impetus of their upcoming training camp, the Baltimore Ravens keep securing their rookie draft picks. With contracts falling into line like a stack of dominos under the principle of slotting, the Ravens' list of unsigned rookies decreases each day.

By Tuesday evening, the AFC North club had reached accords with punter Dave Zastudil (fourth round, Ohio University), return specialist Lamont Brightful (sixth round, Eastern Washington), running back Chester Taylor (sixth round, Toledo) and strong safety Chad Williams (sixth round, Southern Miss.) to bring their total of unsigned selections down to four after having 10 picks to wrap up less than a week ago.

First-round selection Ed Reed said he expects his deal to be completed soon, definitely before players are required to report Thursday night at the team hotel in Westminster for a meeting.

"Right now, it's going pretty good," said Reed, the 24th overall selection and an All-American safety from Miami (Fla.) who intercepted 21 career passes. "We should be finished before camp starts. Everything seems to be on track.

"I'm not really into the business part. My agents are going to tell me what a good business deal is. At the same time, I just want to get this done so I can play football."

 Other than Reed, the Ravens still have three more deals to complete with the following players: defensive lineman Anthony Weaver (second round, Notre Dame), wide receiver Javin Hunter (sixth round, Notre Dame) and quarterback Wes Pate (seventh round, Stephen F. Austin).

Zastudil, an All-American punter who averaged a school record 44.6 yards per punt and never had a punt blocked, agreed to a three-year pact. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed by the Ravens or Zastudil's agent, Neil Cornrich.

As the 112th overall pick of the draft, though, it's likely that Zastudil received base salaries of $225,000 in 2002, $300,000 in 2003 and $380,000 in 2004. Arizona Cardinals rookie defensive tackle Nate Dwyer, the 113th pick, received a signing bonus of $300,000 for a three-year total of $1.205 million. So, the total worth of Zastudil's deal certainly would surely exceed those numbers.

"To be selected by Ozzie Newsome and Phil Savage, two people who have had a track record of unparalleled success of drafting and a Super Bowl behind them, is a great honor for Dave," Cornrich said. "Beyond that, it's a great privilege for him to work with special teams coach Gary Zauner.

"If anything, it was done with plenty of time to spare a few days before camp starts. I think it's a deal both sides are comfortable with."

Brightful, a Baltimore native, agreed to a three-year deal worth $963,000, including a signing bonus of $58,000. Brightful was an All-American return specialist at the Division I-AA level with five kick returns for touchdowns and a 30-yard average per return. Both are Division I-AA records.

"I'm happy it's a done deal," agent Jack Scharf said. "It works out extremely well within the slotting process with the picks above and below him getting bonuses of $59,000 and $57,000. "There were no incentive clauses. It's my understanding that they aren't giving any incentives out for their later picks."

That would appear to be a direct contradiction from the words of agent Doug Hendrickson, who said his client, Ron Johnson, received minor incentive and escalator clauses as a fourth-round choice.

Johnson will ink a three-year deal worth $1.181 million with a signing bonus of $276,000. He was the first Raven rookie to come to terms followed by fifth-round pick Terry Jones, the tight end whose deal goes for three years for a total of $1.015 million with a signing bonus of $110,500.

Taylor, who rushed for 1,492 yards, 20 touchdowns and was named the MVP of the Hula Bowl last season, received a three-year deal totaling $948,750. Taylor has a strong chance to be running back Jamal Lewis' primary backup.

"I'm relieved that the deal is done," agent Alonzo Shavers said. "It came in a timely manner with camp coming up so soon. This gives Chester an opportunity to focus on establishing himself.

"It's a fair deal, all-around. Chester gets a chance to showcase himself. It's past trivial to hold out a sixth-rounder waiting on an incentive package. Baltimore isn't doing that this year."

Williams received a three-year deal worth $948,000, including a signing bonus of $43,000. He was the Ravens' final choice in the sixth round as the 209th overall pick. At Southern Miss, he posted 303 career tackles, four fumble recoveries, two interceptions and 10 sacks.

"It's a big relief," Williams said from Birmingham, Ala. "I was real confident the team and my agent would meet halfway. I'm a hard worker and I'm willing to do anything to help the team and be a contributor. "I'm just ready to get it started and try to make this team."

Peter Schaffer, who represents Hunter, said late Tuesday afternoon that he wasn't close on a deal and was waiting hear back from Baltimore. "We've had cordial discussions," Schaffer said. "Right now, the ball is in their court."

Vann McElroy, who represents Pate, said he expects to strike a deal with the Ravens soon. Reportedly, the Ravens are offering a signing bonus of $29,000 for the 236th overall pick. Last year's selection at that point received $29,500. "We're in the midst of this," McElroy said. "We're working hard. Baltimore is a good franchise. We're just in the middle of getting some of the kinks worked out.

"Our dollars aren't that much different. We'll get something done."

Note: The Ravens waived undrafted rookie free agent linebacker Obiajulu Arah, a rookie from Howard University who played his prep football at Mount St. Joseph in Baltimore.

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