By Jeff Zrebiec
11:20 PM EDT, May 10, 2012
When the Ravens’ 2012 draft class takes the field Friday for the start of a three-day rookie mini-camp in Owings Mills, everybody will be accounted for and newly signed.
The Ravens made sure of that Thursday, reaching an agreement with three more draft picks, including their top selection, Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw.
The Ravens also struck deals with third-round pick Bernard Pierce, a running back from Temple and sixth-rounder Tommy Streeter, a wide receiver out of Miami on Thursday. In doing so, they wrapped up their eight-man 2012 draft class, and became the first team in the NFL to finalize agreements with all of their picks.
The normally convoluted process was accelerated this thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement which created a wage scale and slotting systemand left little room for negotiation. The process worked out for the Ravens, who are going to need several of their rookies to play prominent roles immediately.
Upshaw, who was taken in the second round with the 35th overall pick, is one of those players. He reported to the team facility Thursday, took a physical and signed a four-year deal worth as much as $5.3 million with nearly $3.6 million guaranteed. He was the highest second rounder to agree to terms.
“I just want to come in and produce and I am very happy and honored to be part of this defense,” said Upshaw during a news conference the day after he was drafted. “I wouldn’t want it any other way [than] to be here.”
Upshaw’s selection was viewed more as a luxury than a necessity because the Ravens had bigger needs on the offensive line. However, that outlook changed when the Ravens learned the day after they took Upshaw that star linebacker Terrell Suggs suffered a significant Achilles’ injury during a workout.
Suggs had surgery Tuesday to repair a partial tear and is expected to miss a good part — if not all — of the 2012 season. Upshaw, who already was expected to occupy a significant role in his rookie season because of Jarret Johnson’s departure in free agency, is now a favorite to start at one of the outside linebacker spots with fourth-year pro Paul Kruger the front runner for the other.
Upshaw, who is 6-foot-1 and 272 pounds, played in 50 games over his four-year Alabama career, registering 140 career tackles and 16 1/2 sacks. He had his best season in 2011, starting 12 of 13 games and making 51 tackles, including 17 for losses, 8 1/2 sacks and one interception.
Pierce, who left Temple after his junior season, racked up 1,481 rushing yards and a school-record 27 touchdowns. The 6-foot, 220-pound back joins a young backfield that includes Ray Rice, Anthony Allen and Damien Berry. The Ravens say they are content with that group after Ricky Williams retired early in the offseason. Rice said Monday that he is looking forward to taking on that leadership role.
“Just add him to the mix,” Rice said about Pierce. “One thing about the running back position, we know one guy can’t take the whole load. Him coming in, hopefully he’ll contribute right away.”
Streeter is expected to compete with Tuesday-acquisition Jacoby Jones and second-year players LaQuan Williams and Tandon Doss for the third and fourth wide receiver spots.
Streeter, who is 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, ran a 4.40 40-yard dash at the NFL combine and worked out this offseason with Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, emerged as the Hurricanes’ top receiver this past season, hauling in 46 receptions for 811 yards and eight touchdowns.
NOTE: Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda, who signed a five-year, $32.5-million contract less than 10 months ago, restructured the deal this week to give the Ravens more salary cap space to accommodate the addition of wide receiver/kick returner Jacoby Jones and nose tackle Ryan McBean. The Ravens converted $3.8 million of his scheduled $4.5 million based salary into a signing bonus, creating $2.8 million in salary cap space.
Sun staff writer Matt Vensel contributed to this article
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