OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens locked up the second half of their successful kicking tandem, signing Pro Bowl alternate punter Sam Koch to a five-year contract.
One week after signing Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff to a five-year deal worth $14.7 million, the Ravens hammered out a multi-million dollar deal with Koch that falls shy of Oakland Raiders Pro Bowl punter Shane Lechler’s four-year, $16 million contract.
Koch’s agent, Steve Mudder, said that he finalized the contract after a late-night round of negotiations with Ravens vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty. It was shortly after midnight when Mudder called Koch, waking him and his wife up to deliver the good news.
"Sam couldn’t believe it, he was so excited, and he’s a Raven to his core," Mudder told the Carroll County Times in a telephone interview. "He was so happy. They didn’t go to sleep until 3 or 4 in the morning. I think they really stepped up, and we’re very pleased with the contract. We think it’s a fair deal. We’re very excited.
"Ever since Sam’s rookie deal expired, he wanted a long-term contract with the Ravens. His first choice was always to stay in Baltimore, and the Ravens made sure that happened. Most importantly, he’ll be playing in Baltimore for the next five years."
A celebration ensued early Tuesday morning for the Koch family at their Westminster home.
Koch averaged 43.6 yards per punt last season, placing a career-high 39 punts inside the 20-yard line to rank second in the NFL in that category.
Last season Koch became the Ravens’ all-time leading punter in attempts (402), yards (17,587) and punts inside the 20 (149).
"We believe that we have the best punter and holder in the NFL, and we wanted to make sure he stayed a Raven," coach John Harbaugh said. "Sam is a hard worker, a solid person and a great family man. He represents the Ravens and the city of Baltimore very well. I am proud and happy that he will be a big part of where we are taking our team."
Ultimately, Koch wasn’t looking to leave. And the Ravens wanted to make sure he didn’t go to another NFL team.
"You can’t put a value on that for a guy with a wife and three young boys in school who have grown up in that community," Mudder said. "To have that continuity with the coaches, he understands what they expect from him and understands their standards of excellence. He can continue to succeed in their system. You can go out in free agency and sign a big deal, but maybe you don’t gel with your teammates and coaches, maybe your family doesn’t find the right fit.
"Those are the things that you think about when you’re dealing with people’s lives. All that culminates to being extremely pleased with this deal and extremely thankful to Steve Bisciotti, Ozzie Newsome and Pat, John Harbaugh, Jerry Rosburg, the whole organization, for recognizing and appreciating what Sam does."
Ranked first in franchise history with a 43.7 gross average and a 38.1 net average, Koch was a restricted free agent last season. He played under a $1.759 million one-year restricted tender.
The Ravens attempted to sign Koch to a contract extension following the 2008 season, but talks broke down because it was difficult initially to determine his market value.
There weren’t many recent punter deals other than Lechler’s to work from, and the Raiders’ contract for Lechler was considered an aberration with its extremely high numbers that includes $9 million in guaranteed money.
"There was no real urgency back then on their part to do a long-term deal," Mudder said. "That changed with Sam continuing to perform and being the guy that he is. There was certainly a lot of discussion that went on between Pat and myself. I talked to all of the agents for the top-tier punters in the league. People dismissed the Lechler deal immediately as not being something you can put your arms around.
"Guys like Mat McBriar (five years, $8.5 million) and Nick Harris (six years, $9.15 million) got $1.7 million a year contracts. The lack of punter contracts presented its challenges in defining what the current market value is for an elite punter. I consider Sam to be an elite punter. I shared my analysis with the Ravens. Obviously, the Ravens agreed with how valuable he is and this contract is proof of that.
NOTES: The base salaries for Cundiff’s contract include $1.5 million in 2011, $2.2 million in 2012, $2.3 million in 2013, $2.7 million in 2014 and $3 million in 2015, according to NFL Players Association records. His signing bonus came in at roughly $3 million. … The Ravens have mailed out their season ticket renewal forms this week. If the 2011 season isn’t played in full due to a work stoppage, personal seat license owners will receive refunds for their tickets for anything not rescheduled. All accounts that are paid up by June 1 will receive interest at a rate of 1 percent per annum on refund amounts from that date forward. All money from season tickets will be stored in an escrow account. Team president Dick Cass said that the Ravens don’t plan to raise ticket prices or lay off employees in the event of a lockout.