Ravens extend Billick's contract

OWINGS MILLS -- In a move that Brian Billick seemed to anticipate, the Baltimore Ravens rewarded their coach with a contract extension following the best regular-season record in franchise history. The announcement was made without fanfare Wednesday afternoon with a one-line statement issued that offered no details regarding contract length or terms.

It's believed, though, that Billick, whose contract was scheduled to expire following the 2007 season, received a contract extension of at least two additional years and is under contract through 2009. Billick was slated to be paid $4.5 million in 2007, but is expected to earn the average of the top five NFL head coaching salaries with annual pay in excess of $5 million.
When asked about his contract Monday, Billick made it clear that he would prefer to keep his contract situation a private matter for personal reasons.
"I hope you don't misunderstand why I am hesitant to talk about my contract going forward," said Billick, whose players' contract information is available publicly through the NFL Players Association. "Beyond the personal side, it's not very comfortable to sit and pick up the paper and read your personal finances all over the page."
Billick assured his future in Baltimore by claiming an AFC North title after entering last season on rocky ground following a 6-10 campaign that nearly cost him his job, and was retained by team owner Steve Bisciotti under a change-or-go mandate. Bisciotti personally congratulated Billick for a job well done after this season.
The Ravens finished 13-3 during the regular season and earned the No. 2 AFC playoff seed before being eliminated from the playoffs last Saturday with a 15-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Afterward, Billick drew heavy criticism for a conservative game plan ultimately doomed by four turnovers, including two interceptions from quarterback Steve McNair.
However, it was Billick who fired offensive coordinator Jim Fassel, assumed play-calling duties and led the team on a 9-1 run heading into the playoffs as the offense improved from 29th overall to 17th, including 11th in passing offense.
"It's not surprising that he got an extension," offensive guard Jason Brown said. "He's been a great leader from the beginning to the end of the season. He definitely stepped in for us and did more than a good job of being the offensive coordinator.
"It would be hard to find somebody to do a better job than he did. He helped us win games in a lot of clutch situations. I'm glad they're not making changes."
Since being hired in 1999 to replace Ted Marchibroda, Billick has gone 75-53 and is tied with Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid for the third-longest run in the NFL behind Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher (13) and Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan (12).
Under Billick's direction, the Ravens have qualified for the playoffs four times and won the Super Bowl following the 2000 season. They are 5-3 in the postseason under Billick, but haven't won a playoff game since 2001.
"A coach's situation can be a distraction to the team, positive or negative," Billick said Monday. "I am very fortunate and very grateful to Steve Bisciotti and Dick Cass for creating a structure that allows for that to not be a distraction at any point going forward. We have a mechanism in place.
"That makes it about a two-minute conversation going forward. It's very clearly defined, and it's a non-issue. It's unique like many of the things that we do, but it's certainly not an issue for me. We structure it that way specifically, and it's one that we just don't need to comment on."
Billick promoted quarterbacks coach Rick Neuheisel to offensive coordinator Monday, but indicated he will continue to call the plays. Baltimore averaged 24.3 points under Billick, the ninth-most in the NFL, while averaging 344 yards of total offense to rank 10th during that period.
"I'm glad to hear that they're keeping it in house, which is always a good thing," Brown said. "Rick Neuheisel is a great coach and we'll already have chemistry working together next year, so we'll be able to pick up right where we left off."
NOTES: The agent for All-Pro outside linebacker Adalius Thomas isn't expecting any imminent deal for the impending unrestricted free agent within the next few weeks. The Ravens have a Feb. 22 deadline if they decide to assign the franchise tag and can impose it beginning Feb. 8. Thomas would make the average of the top five linebacker salaries, but wouldn't receive a signing bonus. The Ravens would prefer to sign Thomas to a contract extension for salary-cap reasons, but will lean toward franchising him if no deal can be struck. … The Ravens allocated quarterback Drew Olson, tight end Rob Abiamiri and linebacker Jimmy Cottrell to NFL Europe.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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