OWINGS MILLS — In a major departure from the past when rookie contracts traditionally weren’t finalized until shortly before training camp, the Baltimore Ravens have already signed their entire draft class.
The defending AFC North champions are the early birds this year, becoming the first team in the league to have all of their rookie deals done. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the NFL slotting system has streamlined negotiations.
In advance of today’s three-day rookie minicamp, the Ravens hammered out their final three remaining contracts by striking deals with second-round outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, third-round running back Bernard Pierce and sixth-round wide receiver Tommy Streeter.
As the Ravens’ top draft pick, Upshaw received a four-year contract worth $5.296 million that includes a total of $3.587 million in guaranteed money with $2.292 million paid via a signing bonus.
Pierce’s four-year contract is worth $2.65 million, including a signing bonus of $555,944.
And Streeter’s four-year deal has a total value of $2.194 million with a signing bonus of $94,502.
The Ravens agreed to terms Wednesday night with defensive tackle DeAngelo Tyson, their seventh-round draft pick. His deal is $2.147 million, including a $47,592 signing bonus.
Upshaw emerged as a pivotal figure when the Ravens selected him with the 35th overall pick obtained after the Ravens traded out of the first round.
The All-American pass rusher from Alabama is expected to become an immediate starter since Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs partially tore his Achilles tendon during the NFL draft, underwent surgery to repair the damage and could miss a large portion of, if not the entire season.
At 6-foot-2, 272 pounds, Upshaw is a stout presence against the run who recorded 9 1/2 sacks last season for the Crimson Tide with 51 tackles, 17 for losses and one interception.
For his career, Upshaw had 140 tackles and 16 1/2 sacks.
“He plays like a junkyard dog,” Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta said during the NFL draft. “He has a strong punch. He’s a physical, violent football player. We’re excited about that.”
Upshaw and Paul Kruger are slated to take over the outside linebacker spots vacated by Suggs and Jarret Johnson, who signed a $19 million contract with the San Diego Chargers.
“I’m a tough, physical player,” Upshaw said. “I feel like I’m relentless and I get after the ball. I’m a playmaker. At the end of the day, I’m a football player. I love the game.”
A former Temple star, Pierce is the frontrunner to be the primary backup to Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice.
The Ravens traded their third-round draft pick, 91st overall, and a fifth-round pick, 164th overall, to the Atlanta Falcons to move up seven spots to land Pierce.
Although Pierce will have to compete with Anthony Allen and Damien Berry, the ultra-productive 6-foot, 220-pounder is expected to win the job.
Pierce rushed for 3,570 career yards and 53 touchdowns, gaining 1,481 yards and scoring 27 touchdowns last season.
“He is a one-cut runner with some size,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said during the NFL draft. “He runs very well behind his pads, and that’s the style of running game that we’re using right now.”
Pierce has run the 40-yard dash in the mid 4.4 range to 4.50 seconds, but it was his tackle-breaking and downhill style that drew the Ravens’ interest.
He could provide a short-yardage presence bereft from the Ravens’ backfield since Ricky Williams’ abrupt retirement after last season.
“If you want me to get those short yards, those fourth-and-1s, third-and-shorts, I can definitely adapt to a game plan any way you want me to,” Pierce said earlier this month. “I’m a big back, and I’m not going to go down easy. I’m going to fight for every yard.”
Tyson is a 6-foot-2, 315-pounder from the University of Georgia.
Drafted 236th overall, he has run the 40-yard dash in 5.05 seconds and bench pressed 225 pounds 30 times.
Streeter is a 6-foot-5, 220-pounder from the University of Miami who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.40 seconds.
As a junior last season, Streeter caught 46 passes for 811 yards and eight touchdowns. He was projected to go much higher in the draft.
“I kind of thought I would get picked in the second round or third round,” Streeter told 24×7 in a telephone interview. “After those rounds went by, it got to the point where like, ‘I know I’m going to make it out of this round.’ Things weren’t falling that way. I stayed next to my phone and kept watching the draft.”
“It was out of my hands at that point. I believe in God and I knew I would be picked. I’m definitely excited to go to a team with such great players and great coaches. I couldn’t ask for a better situation. I’m ready to get in there and get to work.”
NOTE: Second-round offensive guard Kelechi Osemele’s four-year deal is worth $3.345 million and includes an $873,360 signing bonus.
The deal includes base salaries of $390,000, $542,085, $694,170 and $846,255.
The entire first-year salary is guaranteed for skill, injury and cap, and $260,400 of his 2013 base salary is also fully guaranteed.