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Team optimistic about getting first-round pick signed before camp starts
OWINGS MILLS — The Baltimore Ravens closed in on breaking their streak of first-round holdouts Thursday night, reportedly reaching an agreement in principle on a five-year contract with offensive guard Ben Grubbs expected to include $5.2 million in guaranteed money.
However, Ravens team officials denied that a formal deal had been finalized yet.
"We have dialogue, but we do not have an agreement at this time," Ravens senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne said in a telephone interview.
Grubbs, the 29th overall pick from Auburn, is slated to compete with Chris Chester for the starting right guard job. Grubbs’ deal is expected to carry a maximum value of $11 million if he triggers every incentive clause.
Under the NFL slotting principle, Grubbs’ compensation is likely to be comparable to the five-year, $8 million contract signed by San Francisco 49ers rookie offensive tackle Joe Staley, the No. 28 overall pick. Staley received $5.6 million in guaranteed money as part of a financial package with a maximum value of $10.9 million if every incentive clause is reached.
Grubbs’ deal is likely to be slightly higher than the five-year, $7.8 million deal signed recently by the No. 30 overall pick, San Diego Chargers rookie wide receiver Craig Davis, who received an $11 million maximum value contract that included $5.4 million in guaranteed money.
The Ravens report to training camp Sunday in Westminster, opening practice Monday morning at McDaniel College
If Grubbs signs, he would be the first Ravens first-round draft pick to report on time since tight end Todd Heap, who agreed to terms in 2001 prior to the start of training camp.
Subsequent holdouts for the Ravens have included safety Ed Reed in 2002, quarterback Kyle Boller and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs in 2003, wide receiver Mark Clayton in 2005 and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata in 2006.
"I definitely want to be at camp on time," Grubbs said when minicamp concluded in June. "That’s very important to me, to be there with my teammates and get off to a good start."
Grubbs and his agent, Pat Dye Jr, didn’t return telephone calls Thursday night.
Regarded as the top pure guard in the draft, the 6-foot-3, 315-pound Grubbs combines mobility and strength. An All-Southeastern Conference selection, Grubbs could provide the Ravens with the flexibility in the interior line to possibly move Chester inside to center at some point.
Grubbs graded out at over 90 percent in 30 of his starts at Auburn and was penalized just four times in 2,331 plays at Auburn. He allowed just 2 1/2 career sacks and seven quarterback pressures.
Sixteen of his blocks resulted in touchdowns last fall.
Traditionally, the Ravens’ first-round draft picks have made an immediate impact. Will Grubbs be the next one to contribute right away?
â€œItâ€™s an open competition,â€ offensive line coach Chris Foerster said in June. â€œWe put Ben at right guard because itâ€™s a position where we felt if there were injuries anywhere across the interior line, we felt he could slide into a spot if he wasnâ€™t already in a starting position.
â€œIf at any point he becomes one of the best three interior players, we would insert him in the lineup. If heâ€™s not quite ready, if he doesnâ€™t make the conversion from college to the pros that quickly, then we have a season to groom him. Heâ€™s a very talented player, as are Chris Chester and Jason Brown.â€
Grubbs, 23 grew up in Eclectic, Ala., population 1,037, a small town with just one stoplight. It didn’t have a McDonald’s or a Wal-Mart within the city limits, Grubbs said.
â€œIâ€™m a country boy,â€ Grubbs said when Baltimore drafted him in April. â€œWhen I moved to Auburn — which is not a huge city, just a nice city — I thought that was the life. Now that I am here, it feels like home. I donâ€™t think itâ€™s going to be any problem.â€
Grubbs’ father died of a blood clot when he was five years old, so he was raised by his mother, Deborah Grubbs, in a single-parent household. She worked at a post office, raising Grubbs and his older brother, Cedric. She worked long hours in a post office while raising Grubbs and his older brother, Cedric, on her own.
â€œMy mom instilled great morals and values in me,â€ Grubbs said. â€œAs far as my character, I just try to treat people right like I want to be treated."
NOTE: When Grubbs’ deal is done, it will leave the Ravens with one remaining unsigned rookie: fourth-round fullback Le’Ron McClain. McClain’s agent, Todd France, didn’t return telephone calls and e-mails.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.