By Jeff Zrebiec and Aaron Wilson, The Baltimore Sun
2:17 PM EDT, July 18, 2013
Exactly a week before their first full-team practice of training camp, the Ravens took care of one more piece of offseason business Thursday, agreeing in principle to a four-year deal with first-round draft pick Matt Elam, general manager Ozzie Newsome announced.
Elam, a safety out of Florida, will sign the deal, which is worth $6.767 million and includes a $3.3 million signing bonus and a fifth-year option, when he reports to the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills on Sunday with the rest of the Ravens’ rookie class. All 10 players the Ravens drafted in April have now agreed to their rookie contracts.
Elam, the 32nd and final pick in the draft’s first round, will arrive at training camp as the favorite to win a starting safety job opposite veteran Michael Huff, the former Oakland Raider who the Ravens signed in late March. The Ravens lost both starting safeties — Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard — from last year’s Super Bowl-winning team.
The hard-hitting rookie safety told The Sun at the team’s mandatory minicamp in mid-June that there was just contract language to review and he expected to finalize the deal shortly. Elam didn’t hire an agent for the negotiations, instead relying heavily on his brother Abram — a former NFL defensive back — and several advisers.
In three seasons at Florida, Elam played in 39 games and started 26 of them, finishing his Gators career with 176 tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, 13 passes defended and six interceptions. At 5 feet 10 and 210 pounds, Elam was a first-team All-American and All-Southeastern Conference selection last season and one of the main reasons the Gators finished second in the nation in pass efficiency.
He’s already made a great impression on his teammates and coaching staff during the Ravens’ offseason workouts.
“He’s picking things up very fast,” said cornerback Corey Graham. “He’s at safety, they are putting him in the dollar package, he’s coming down playing nickel. When you have the ability to play all those positions, that’s pretty impressive. You don’t see that much, especially in the first couple of months of being on the team.”
The Ravens have said Elam will get an opportunity to come in and compete for a starting job, but they don’t want to publicly put any extra expectations on the 21-year-old.
“It’s a different deal going from college to pro, but it’s still playing football. So he has to learn our scheme. He has to learn how we like the guys to line up, what calls we make,” secondary coach Teryl Austin said last month. “He has a lot of things to learn, but he’s learning them, because he’s bright and he gets football. He has a lot of stuff to work on and our job is to get him there by the season.”
Elam does have high expectations for himself, saying last month that he has dreams of becoming “one of the greatest safeties to play the game.”
His new deal will have a salary cap figure of $1.23 million, leaving the Ravens with about $5.3 million of cap space to address any potential needs in training camp.
Though the rookie wage scale, which was included as part of the most recent labor deal, has taken much of the drama out of the draft signing process, about half of the 32 first-round picks remain unsigned.
Elam was the last of the Ravens’ 10 draft picks to agree to a deal, following linebacker Arthur Brown (second round), nose tackle Brandon Williams (third round), linebacker John Simon and fullback Kyle Juszczyk (fourth round), guard/tackle Rick Wagner (fifth round), defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore and center Ryan Jensen (sixth round), and wide receiver Aaron Mellette and cornerback Marc Anthony (seventh round).
Elam, Brown, Williams and Juszczyk all will come to training camp with an opportunity to win a starting job.
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