The Ravens fulfilled their third and final major off-season priority yesterday when starting quarterback Tony Banks agreed to a four-year contract extension that with incentives could pay him as much as $18.6 million.
Banks' deal concluded a whirlwind week for the Ravens, who have re-signed defensive end Rob Burnett and defensive tackle Larry Webster, and then reached a four-year agreement with Denver Broncos All-Pro tight end Shannon Sharpe on Wednesday night.
Ravens vice president of administration Pat Moriarty ended his two-day stay in California by getting a new deal done with Banks through agent Marvin Demoff, who also represents Sharpe and Ravens left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden. The contract is loaded with incentive and option clauses, according to a source close to Banks.
"First of all, we wanted to solidify our defense," said Ravens coach Brian Billick, "and we have done that with Webster and Burnett. We wanted to improve our tight end position and we have achieved that goal, too. A while ago when we looked into free agency and the quarterbacks available, we decided Tony Banks would be our best viable option. He became a major priority as well. Clearly, we're glad to have him back."
Banks, a fifth-year veteran, started the 1999 season as the third-string quarterback behind Scott Mitchell and Stoney Case. After the sixth game, head coach Brian Billick went with Banks who went 6-4 as a starter including leading the Ravens on a four-game winning streak before losing the season finale to the New England Patriots, 20-3.
Banks completed 169 of 320 passes for 2,136 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. Banks did not return phone calls yesterday, but Billick is excited about having Banks back.
"I did this with Brad Johnson in Minnesota," said Billick, referring to another one of his calculations that earned him the nickname "Stat Boy" from Vikings players. "Let's say we get Tony up to a 56 percent completion rate [52.8 last season] based on what he did last year. Let's also factor in A, he is more familiar with the system. Then there is B, he'll be more proficient at quarterback and then C, we upgrade our personnel. By my projections over 16 games next season, he'll throw for 3,600 yards, 19 touchdowns and have 14 interceptions.
"Those numbers, which are viable, combined with the No. 2-ranked defense, could paint a playoff picture. You also have to figure in a player like Sharpe, who is an impetus of what we're trying to do here."
According to both Billick and Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens vice president of player personnel, the team will become less active in the free-agent market and will concentrate on re-signing some of their players. Wide receiver Qadry Ismail, who led the team in receptions (68) and yards (1,105) last season, has become one of the team's top two priorities along with kicker Matt Stover.
Stover converted 28 of 33 field-goal attempts last season and has hit 18 in a row going into the 2000 season. Newsome said he was confident the team could get a deal done with Ismail and he reported there has been a lot of progress in talks with Stover.
Those deals could be finalized at the beginning of next week, and then the Ravens would start filling out their roster by re-signing reserves and special teams players.
"I think we're going to stay put," said Billick, in reference to the free-agent market outside his team. "We'll go into the mode for pre- and post-draft. If something happens where someone gets pushed out and it's the right dollar value, we'll take a look if it can help our team."
The Ravens were already looking for backup linebackers at the end of last season, and they have increased their search with Pro Bowl middle linebacker Ray Lewis being charged in a double murder in Atlanta on the morning following the Super Bowl.
If Lewis can't play this season, the Ravens would like to sign a veteran, possibly one who has experience playing in a scheme similar to the one used by defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis. Ray Lewis calls the defensive formation for the Ravens.
One name that has surfaced is former Indianapolis middle linebacker Michael Barber, 28 (6-0 and 246 pounds), who started every game for the Colts last season. Barber, who had 103 tackles and participated in 60 percent of the Colts' defensive plays, is expected to visit Jacksonville Monday.
Billick said that regardless of whom the team has or will sign during free agency, it will have no bearing on the draft. The Ravens have needs at running back, wide receiver and offensive line.
NOTE: The Cleveland Browns were trying to finalize a contract last night with Ravens running back Errict Rhett, an unrestricted free agent.
Rhett met with Browns coaches at the team's complex and attended the Cavaliers game with Dwight Clark, Browns' director of football operations.
"This is where I want to be," Rhett said. "Hopefully we can get a deal done in the next day or so."
Pub Date: 2/18/00