The Goose has landed in Baltimore, and he touched down by wearing jeans and a T-shirt, proclaiming his love for the local seafood and Italian cuisine, and promising that the Ravens would be more formidable with his wide presence in the trenches.

The Ravens completed a two-week transformation of their defense yesterday by signing tackle Tony Siragusa to a four-year, $6.1 million contract. The deal includes a reported $1.7 million signing bonus, and it could earn Siragusa about $2.9 million in the first two years.

"Some people get caught up in the money. I'm not a plastic doll. I'm straightforward. I'll tell you what I'm thinking," said Siragusa, 6 feet 3, 330 pounds. "I hope to get to Little Italy soon. I love crabs. I never miss a meal. I like to play the game hard, and I don't like to lose."

And Siragusa, who is coming off a knee injury and seven mostly productive seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, would like nothing more than to justify the Ravens' love by giving them the proven run-stopper they have craved.

Four days after a strong draft that saw them add projected starters at outside linebacker in Peter Boulware and Jamie Sharper and at safety in Kim Herring, and 17 days after they beefed up their pass rush by signing free-agent right end Michael McCrary, the Ravens introduced the man who will line up next to McCrary.

"The first thing we want to do on defense is stop the run, and we've added a run-stopping impact player," said coach Ted Marchibroda, who coached Siragusa from 1992 to '95 with the Colts and lobbied for his services heavily.

"He's been to the playoffs, he knows what it takes to win, and his best years are ahead of him."

In their 4-3 defense, the Ravens envision Siragusa, 29, drawing double-team blocks regularly. They see a guy who will allow middle linebacker Ray Lewis to reach ball carriers more easily, a guy who will make their pass rush more effective by keeping an extra blocker occupied with his strong push up the middle.

"We can stop the run on first and second down to get us into a third-down situation. Then, we've got a chance to go get the quarterback," said Ravens defensive line coach Jacob Burney. "There's tremendous optimism in the organization about the defense, and [Siragusa] is certainly a big part of that optimism."

Team owner Art Modell, who noted Siragusa's ample girth by referring to him as a "gaggle of geese," said Siragusa will fill the last major piece of the Ravens' defensive puzzle. Last season, the Ravens had the league's lowest-rated defense, a unit that was primarily responsible for their 4-12 record.

"Getting this proven commodity is the culmination of a solid week for the Baltimore Ravens," Modell said. "It's been a great week for the franchise and a great week for this town."

The Ravens are counting on Siragusa's right knee holding up in similar fashion. He missed six games last season with an injury that eventually required arthroscopic surgery. In 10 games, Siragusa made 57 tackles, his lowest output since 1991.

Siragusa has had occasional problems with his knees since his collegiate days at Pittsburgh. Questions about his health caused him to go undrafted in 1990, when he signed with the Colts as a free agent. By 1993 under Marchibroda, he had found his niche. Siragusa made 76 tackles in 14 games that year, then followed that with a career-high 108 tackles and five sacks in 1994. He had 70 tackles in 14 games in 1995.

"Baltimore took so many X-rays of me that my neckwear glows in the dark. I'll probably have a lawsuit against them," said Siragusa. "I feel 100 percent right now. I'm working out hard with no problems."

Said Marchibroda: "I saw Goose rise. He was a free agent no one knew about, and now he's a free agent we're holding a press conference for. He made it on his own, the hard way. He's been on a 1-15 team and he's been on a team that almost made the Super Bowl. He'll provide leadership we need."

Siragusa said Marchibroda was the pivotal factor in his decision to leave the Colts. He also said he likes being closer to his home in Kenilworth, N.J., and the thought of playing on natural grass attracted him.

And Siragusa could not resist taking a shot at his old organization.

"I feel a little strange here, but this is fun," he said. "[The Ravens] gave me a free hat and stuff. I always had to pay for them in Indy."

Siragusa's contract will cost the Ravens about $800,000 in salary cap dollars. Since the team already has been charged the minimum rookie salary of $131,000 for its 12 draft picks, the Siragusa deal leaves the Ravens about $200,000 under the cap. They plan to create more cap room by, among other moves, releasing defensive tackle Dan Footman and restructuring defensive end Rob Burnett's contract.

Ravens defense

The Ravens' projected starters on defense:

Pos., Player

LE, Rob Burnett

LT, James Jones

RT, Tony Siragusa*

RE, Michael McCrary*

RLB, Peter Boulware*

MLB, Ray Lewis

LLB, Jamie Sharper*

LCB, Antonio Langham

RCB, DeRon Jenkins or Donny Brady

FS, Kim Herring* or Rondell Jones*

SS, Stevon Moore

* -- not with team last year

Pub Date: 4/25/97

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