McAlister happy with 1-year, $5.9 million deal

THE BALTIMORE SUN

While a number of NFL teams' franchise players show up to training camp unhappy - if at all - Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister arrived at Westminster yesterday in an exceptionally good mood.

McAlister signed a one-year, $5.9 million contract, the average salary of the top five players at his position, in the evening and did not appear upset about not reaching a long-term deal with the Ravens.

He even joked about the prospect of the Ravens franchising him again next year if the sides cannot reach an agreement this season.

"Then I'll make $7.5 million," McAlister said of his likely salary if that happens. "I make $5.9 this year. Why would I get mad? The prices just keep going up. They could franchise me 10 years in a row and it's just going to keep climbing. It's up to them."

McAlister attended the first offseason minicamp, which was mandatory, in early May but has been estranged from the Ravens complex since.

"I've never been here for the offseason program so it really wasn't a change from any other year," McAlister said. "The minicamps is what I did miss. Just running around and having a good time, that is what minicamps to me are about."

McAlister said he would be willing to negotiate into the season rather than set a cutoff date as many players in his position do. Last year, the Ravens reached long-term agreements with linebacker Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware during camp.

"I'm just here to prove that I'm the best at what I do," McAlister said. "So I should be paid accordingly. I already have a contract from now until January, so who knows what is going to happen?"

Gauge reads full

With McAlister back, the Ravens will debut their revamped secondary in practice today. Gary Baxter, who played cornerback last season, will begin camp as a full-time safety alongside Ed Reed.

Corey Fuller, a free-agent pickup earlier this offseason, will start at cornerback.

"I know the defense," Baxter said. "It's not going to be a total surprise for me. I can get in there and adjust the best way I can. I know I can adjust to it, make the calls and do a lot of things. It's really not a big deal for me. I look at it as a challenge, and I just want to excel wherever I go."

Playoff talk

During the Super Bowl season in 2000, Ravens coach Brian Billick put a ban on playoff talk. He did not shy away from stating the Ravens' goal in his opening news conference yesterday.

"We expect to be a playoff team," Billick said. "Of course, I challenge you to go to any NFL camp and hear a head coach tell you, 'No, we don't expect to be a playoff team this year.' "

Sapp gets three-year deal

Sixth-round pick Gerome Sapp signed a three-year deal. Sapp is expected to compete with Anthony Mitchell and Will Demps as a backup safety.

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