Ravens begin signing rookie free agents

OWINGS MILLS -- Even before the NFL draft had adjourned Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens were already setting deals in motion by recruiting undrafted rookie free agents. That's the avenue for how the Ravens acquired future Pro Bowl linebacker Bart Scott, running back Priest Holmes, return specialist B.J. Sams, center Mike Flynn and cornerback Ronnie Prude among others.

Typically, Baltimore doesn't offer a signing bonus, just a locker stall, helmet and shoulder pads with a legitimate chance to make the final roster or practice squad.
According to college sports information departments or agents, Baltimore has agreed in principle to deals with: Northeastern University tight end Kendrick Ballantyne, who caught 39 passes for seven touchdowns last season, Central Michigan wide receiver Damien Lisnon, who caught 155 career passes for 2,279 yards and 17 touchdowns and 6-foot-5, 203-pound Syracuse punter/kickoff specialist Brendan Carney, who averaged 64.4 yards per kickoff and said he heard from Baltimore special teams coach Frank Gansz during the middle of the seventh round.
Plus, the Ravens are bringing in Southeast Missouri State defensive end Edgar Jones, an All-American selection who led all Division I-AA players with a dozen sacks last season, along with Houston cornerback Willie Gaston, USC offensive tackle Kyle Williams, Notre Dame tight end Marcus Freeman, a 6-2, 245-pound part-time starter for the Fighting Irish over the past three seasons and Syracuse defensive end Jamar Atkinson, a Woodbridge, Va., native who may project to outside linebacker at 6-2, 235 pounds.
Baltimore acquired University of Tennessee kicker James Wilhoit, a kickoff specialist candidate who chose the Ravens over the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins.
After drafting Auburn guard Ben Grubbs in the first round and Alabama fullback Le'Ron McClain in the fourth round, Baltimore mined that region again by agreeing to terms with Alabama offensive tackle Kyle Tatum. Tatum is a 6-7, 311-pound converted defensive tackle who started as a sophomore and a junior, but was demoted during his senior year.
Grand Valley State quarterback Cullen Finnert agreed to sign with the Ravens, too.
The Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills were also interested in Finnerty.
Finnerty totaled 9,488 career yards and 92 touchdowns, leading his team to the Division II national title.
NOTE: Among the grades issued for the Ravens' seven-player draft, ESPN's Mel Kiper gave Baltimore a B with three stars from USA Today, a B from The Sporting News, a C from CBS Sportsline and a C-minus from FOX Sports.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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