Huerta accepts one-year Baltimore deal


Carlos Huerta's dream of kicking in the NFL will pass through Baltimore after all.

After briefly threatening to retire, Huerta said yesterday he has agreed to play out the option year of his contract with the Baltimore Football Club at the bargain-basement price of $25,000, rather than extend and increase the value of the contract.

In so doing, the 25-year-old Miami native reserves the right to jump from the Canadian Football League to the NFL in 1996.

"Am I happy? I'm happy to be playing football and happy to be in Baltimore," Huerta said. "I did not want to play for any other team, especially Birmingham. I did not want to play for a Canadian team. At the same time, I'm very sorry to see the opportunity with the NFL pass me by."

Huerta was the Western Division Rookie of the Year last season playing for the now-defunct Las Vegas Posse. Baltimore claimed Huerta in Tuesday's dispersal draft of Posse players.

Had he been a free agent, Huerta said he could have joined the Seattle Seahawks and Dennis Erickson, his coach at the University of Miami, with a six-figure salary. Before the draft, he even offered Posse management $50,000 -- "money I would have had to borrow" -- to release him, to no avail.

With Baltimore, Huerta had the choice of extending the contract for more money, or playing out the option year. Baltimore offered to make him the highest paid place-kicker in the CFL, but he opted to take less money now for the chance to make big bucks later. Saskatchewan's Dave Ridgway is the league's highest-paid place-kicker at $42,000. Baltimore's offer was for two years and up to $45,000.

Huerta said he has not ruled out a CFL career, but merely wants the chance to explore his NFL options.

"If I come back [to Baltimore] for a second year, I'd like to be the highest-paid kicker," he said. "But I'd like to see what's out there. As a kid, you grow up wanting to play in the NFL."

Huerta was successful on 38 of 46 field-goal attempts for Las Vegas, including eight of 11 of distances between 50 and 55 yards. Previously, he had NFL tryouts in San Diego, where he couldn't beat out incumbent John Carney, and Houston, where he lost to Al Del Greco. He was voted MVP of Miami's national championship team in 1991.

"If he comes here, kicks well and sees a solid foundation, I think he'll be happy here," said Jim Popp, Baltimore's assistant

general manager.

Huerta's arrival means the end for Donald Igwebuike, who was the team's most popular player last year. Popp said the team would look to trade Igwebuike, while still helping him with his immigration problems.

Huerta will be introduced at a news conference tomorrow tentatively set to release the team's schedule.

"We've got to be extremely happy with our kicking now," Popp said of Huerta and punter Josh Miller.

"We've got two first-team All-Americans. I think both will be kicking in the NFL in a year or two. Both probably should be kicking there right now."

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