Ravens upgrade secondary with Fuller

OWINGS MILLS - Shrugging off questions about whether he will ultimately line up at cornerback or safety for the Baltimore Ravens as irrelevant, veteran defensive back Corey Fuller said he has a more imperative preference. "I want to win," said Fuller after signing a three-year contract Tuesday afternoon to become the Ravens' first acquisition in the free agency period that began Friday. "I want to try to get a Super Bowl ring. I'll even play nose guard."

Fuller, 31, was an unrestricted free agent after falling victim to the Cleveland Browns' salary cap concerns. He carried a $3.9 million cap figure for next season.

However, the Ravens valued his versatility and tough-guy reputation enough to sign Fuller to a contract reportedly worth $4.5 million, including a signing bonus of $1.5 million.

After eight seasons starting for the Vikings and Browns, Fuller will contend for a starting position at cornerback or safety in Baltimore.

"Corey's a competitor," said Ravens coach Brian Billick, who knows Fuller from his days as the Vikings' offensive coordinator. "He's very physical. He's extremely passionate about the game.

"He's intelligent. He knows what it takes to win. He's a leader."

Now, the Ravens turn their attention toward blue-chip wideout David Boston. Boston is scheduled to fly to Baltimore today after listening to the San Diego Chargers' recruiting pitch for the last two days.

Although defensive coordinator Mike Nolan affirmed that Gary Baxter and Chris McAlister remain his starting cornerbacks, the Ravens view Fuller simply as an upgrade to their secondary regardless of where he's utilized.

One possible scenario: Baxter could move back inside to safety. Or Fuller could shift to safety, a position he played during the expansion Browns' inaugural season in 1999.

 "We'll play the best four guys," Nolan said. "I know he'll play through pain, that he always checked the opponent's best wide receiver for the Browns and that he's a strong tackler. He knows this division and he should fit in very well with us.

"This is a big improvement for our secondary. I'm excited."

Fuller believes he still has the necessary acceleration and backpedaling skills to play cornerback, but said he will play wherever he's needed most.

Last season, Fuller finished with 32 tackles, a forced fumble and an interception. During his tenure in the league, Fuller has career totals of 462 tackles, 92 pass deflections and 17 interceptions.

His personal scouting report: "Mean, tough and nasty guy who will do whatever it takes to win. I know what I'm capable of."

Based upon Fuller's experience and production, the Ravens have a strong comfort level with Fuller.

A native of Tallahassee, Fla., who starred collegiately at Florida State, Fuller said his friendship with All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis was a portion of his motivation to sign with Baltimore.

"We've known each other a long time and been through a lot," Fuller said of his kinship with Lewis. "When I got released, he called me."

Primarily, though, Fuller said he wanted the opportunity to make a bid for a Super Bowl title after coming up short twice with the Vikings and Browns in the playoffs.

 "This was the best situation for me," Fuller said. "I think that the Ravens are right there."

NOTES: Billick said that he's intrigued by the talent of Boston, whom the Arizona Cardinals declined to assign the franchise tag to after a spate of injuries and off-field issues. Boston ended last season on injured reserve after suffering a patellar tendon injury to his right knee. Boston caught 98 passes for 1,598 yards and eight touchdowns in 2001. … After flying to Florida last week to meet with Jeff Blake, Billick said he remains optimistic that the Ravens will eventually re-sign their incumbent quarterback. Blake is an unrestricted free agent whom the Ravens have been at an impasse with over contract terms, including incentive clauses. … Quarterback Chris Redman was at the Ravens' facility Tuesday and said he's encouraged by the outcome of his back surgery. He can throw standing still now, anticipates running within a few weeks and said he will participate in all of the minicamps. "I feel great," Redman said. ... Unrestricted free agent outside linebacker Cornell Brown's agent reported significant progress in contract discussions with the Ravens. "We've had numerous inquiries about Cornell," said Joel Segal, whose client is reportedly a potential target of the Jacksonville Jaguars. "We've had very good conversations with Ozzie Newsome." … According to the agent for free agent receiver Brandon Stokley, who caught 24 passes for Baltimore before requiring foot surgery, has drawn interest from the St. Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions and Jacksonville. "We're just sorting through everything right now," said Rick Smith, Stokley's agent. "We'll keep Baltimore informed."

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