OWINGS MILLS – Hours after the New York Jets provided a boost to their secondary by signing star cornerback Darrelle Revis to a blockbuster deal, the Baltimore Ravens upgraded their wide receiver corps.
The Ravens acquired former Pro Bowl wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, a longtime nemesis, by reaching a deal on a one-year, $855,000 contract. And they created a roster spot for him by trading wide receiver Mark Clayton to the St. Louis Rams.
Houshmandzadeh, 32, was cut by the Seattle Seahawks after one seaosn, and they’ll pick up the tab for the remaining $7 million in guaranteed money on his contract. He’ll immediately operate as the third wide receiver working behind two fellow possession types in Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason.
Signing Houshmandzadeh, who was also under consideration by the Oakland Raiders, is yet another sign that the Ravens are loading up as they attempt to make a Super Bowl run.
"We’ve been very aggressive in trying to make our team better," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Obviously, there’s a lot of interest by guys that come here to be part of this team."
Houshmandzadeh was scheduled to arrive in Baltimore on Monday night and take a physical this morning before being introduced at a press conference. He’s slated to play against the Jets in the season opener next week.
"T.J. will definitely be ready to go," Harbaugh said. "He’ll start working on the playbook. He’s been in the system before, and that’s a plus."
Houshmandzadeh haunted the Ravens for several years in the AFC North with the Cincinnati Bengals before signing a five-year, $40 million contract with Seattle last year.
Houshmandzadeh caught 77 passes for 987 yards and six touchdowns in 13 career games against Baltimore. Six years ago at M&T Bank Stadium, he piled up a career-high 171 receiving yards on 10 catches.
"The first things that pop out at you about T.J. are that he has been very productive and durable in his first nine years in the NFL," general manager Ozzie Newsome said "Plus, we saw him more than we wanted making a lot of plays against us. We had interest in him a year ago when he first became a free agent before he signed with Seattle.
"He’s another proven weapon for our offense: a big receiver with good hands and toughness. The one other thing that every coach and player we talked with about him indicated is that T.J. is a driven player with an excellent work ethic."
A 2007 Pro Bowl selection, Houshmandzadeh has caught 586 career passes for 6,693 yards and 40 touchdowns.
He’s known for his precise routes, sure hands and willingness to block downfield. Last season, he caught 79 passes for 911 yards and three touchdowns as Seattle won only five games.
Although Houshmandzadeh is an accomplished player, he’s no burner. Neither are Boldin or Mason.
The purest deep threat on the roster is Donte’ Stallworth and he’s out for up to two months with a broken foot that required surgery.
So, will the Ravens be able to create separation downfield?
"You know how you stretch the field? You run deep," Harbaugh said. "They’ve got to cover you, especially when you have guys running down the field that can catch the ball. So, you run deep and you throw it to them.
"If they don’t cover them, they’ll catch the ball and they’ll score. So, I guess what I’m saying is I think it’s a little overblown. You put good players on the field and they’re threats."
There’s some duplication involved with the trio of receivers, though.
All excel at running similar pass routes.
"I think it’s great to put really good players on the field together," Harbaugh said. "It should present a little bit of a picture about the type of offense and the type of team we want to build. Those are our kind of guys, and it’s good to put good players out there together."
Prior to signing with the Seahawks, Houshmandzadeh had three consecutive seasons of 90 or more catches for the Bengals with a high mark of 112 catches three years ago when he made the Pro Bowl by generating 1,143 yards and a dozen touchdowns.
He was definitely a lot more productive than Clayton, a former first-round draft pick.
And the move essentially operates as a trade with Houshmandzadeh’s arrival and Clayton’s departure.
"They both bring a lot to the table for anybody," said Harbaugh, declining to compare the players’ abilities. "For us right now, it’s a fresh start with a new guy. He’s a big, physical guy, we really appreciate that. They’re both really good players."
In the past, Houshmandzadeh has averaged six receptions and 76 receiving yards against Baltimore.
Now, he’s joining them just in time to play against Revis and the reigning top-ranked defense in the league from last year.
"Oh man, he’s a big addition to our offense," fullback Le’Ron McClain said. "The sky’s the limit."