Ravens in talks with unsigned rookies

OWINGS MILLS -- Now that the Baltimore Ravens have secured quarterback Joe Flacco's services with a five-year contract worth up to $30 million for the first-round draft pick, they're concentrating on finalizing deals with their eight remaining unsigned draft picks.

The Ravens have discussed contract parameters with second-round running back Ray Rice, the 55th overall pick out of Rutgers. No contract is imminent, but Rice is expected to be at training camp on time.

The Ravens have had initial discussions with several players and are believed to be getting close on deals with fourth-round offensive tackle David Hale (Weber State) and fourth-round wide receiver Marcus Smith (New Mexico).

The other unsigned players include: third-round safety Tom Zbikowski, third-round linebacker Tavares Gooden (Miami), sixth-round safety Haruki Nakamura (Cincinnati), seventh-round wide receiver Justin Harper (Virginia Tech) and seventh-round running back Allen Patrick (Oklahoma).

Offensive tackle Oniel Cousins, the team's third-round pick out of UTEP, agreed to a three-year, $1.593 million contract that included a $443,500 signing bonus.

Meanwhile, Flacco and the Ravens are excited that he'll be reporting to camp on time Monday when he plans to sign his contract. The Ravens and Flacco's agent agreed in principle to a contract that includes $8.75 million in guaranteed money Wednesday night.

"I can't emphas ize enough how glad we are that we got this thing done," said Joe Linta, who represents Flacco. "The most important thing is that it's done early. Everyone's very excited about that."

Flacco's deal exceeds the value of Cleveland Browns quarterback Brady Quinn, the 22nd overall pick last year who signed a five-year, $20.2 million deal that included $7.75 million in guaranteed money.

General manager Ozzie Newsome acknowledged in a statement that the team expects Flacco to sign the proposed contract shortly.

"We do not have a final agreement with Joe and his agent right now, but we are confident that we will have a signed contract with Joe by the time we start training camp next Monday night," Newsome said.

Flacco is slated to compete with Troy Smith and Kyle Boller for the starting job.

Drafted 18th overall, the 6-foot-6, 235-pounder transferred from Pittsburgh and started two seasons at Delaware where he completed 63.4 percent of his throws for 7,046 yards, 41 touchdowns and 15 interceptions while leading the Blue Hens to the Division I-AA national title game.

"I'm ready to work really hard to prove to everybody that they made a good decision in picking me," said Flacco after the Ravens maneuvered in the first round to acquire him. "This was the coaching staff's first pick here at this organization and I want to prove to everybody that they made a good decision in doing that."

NOTE: The Ravens announced that they are awarding nearly $100,000 in grants to 23 nonprofit organizations in the Baltimore area.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.


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