OWINGS MILLS — The Baltimore Ravens upgraded their languishing return game and provided depth for a thin wide receiver corps.
And the defending AFC North champions locked up a hard-hitting presence in their secondary for the next four years.
The Ravens agreed to a two-year, $7 million contract with speedy former Houston Texans wide receiver and kick returner Jacoby Jones. And they signed starting strong safety Bernard Pollard to a three-year contract extension, leaving him under contract through the 2015 season.
"Adding Jacoby gives us another proven downfield weapon in our passing game and production with our returns," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "His experience makes the offense better, and the competition he brings can help raise our levels at receiver and with punt and kickoff returns."
The Ravens had been seeking an experienced returner since last season, meeting with San Francisco 49ers return specialist Ted Ginn Jr. during free agency. He opted to remain with the NFC West franchise on a one-year contract.
Jones visited the Ravens this week after a previous meeting with the Carolina Panthers.
The Texans cut Jones last week months after he muffed a punt during an AFC divisional playoff loss to the Ravens that led to a Baltimore touchdown. Jones became unpopular in Houston after fumbling twice in that game.
Jones’ presence ensures the Ravens won’t need to expose starting cornerback Lardarius Webb to the risk of punt returns.
The 6-foot-2, 212-pound former Texans third-round draft pick should boost a kick return game that struggled last year as David Reed fumbled twice in one game, got benched and later tore his anterior cruciate ligament.
Jones has averaged 10.2 yards per punt return with three touchdowns. He has a career 23.3 yard average on kickoff returns with one score.
The Ravens have two established starting wide receivers in Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith.
However, they had no proven option at the third receiver spot and were evaluating the merits of Tandon Doss, Reed, LaQuan Williams and rookie Tommy Streeter.
Jones, 27, was due a $3 million base salary this year.
The former Lane College standout caught 31 passes for 512 yards and two touchdowns last season.
For his career, Jones has 127 receptions for 1,741 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Last season, he averaged 10.6 yards per punt return with a 79-yard touchdown. He didn’t return kickoffs last year.
He was rendered expendable when the Texans drafted wide receivers DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin in the third round and fourth round.
The Texans attempted to trade Jones, reportedly offering him in exchange for Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy. However, there were no takers.
Now, he’s a Raven.
Jones rejoins a pair of former Texans teammates in Pollard and All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach.
Both players welcomed Jones via Twitter message.
Pollard, 27, is now under contract through the 2015 season.
The rugged 6-foot-1, 228-pounder emerged as the enforcer in the Ravens’ secondary last season, beating out Tom Zbikowski for the strong safety job after three games.
Pollard started 13 games and registered 75 tackles, two sacks, three forced fumbles, a career-high 13 pass deflections and one interception, injecting the defense with a hard-nosed presence.
For his career, Pollard has 488 tackles, 7 1/2 sacks, eight interceptions and a dozen forced fumbles.
"Bernard showed last year that he is a Raven," Newsome said. "He’s smart, tough and brings a passion to the games, our practices and in the weight room.
"His physical presence on the back end is very important to the way we play defense. He has indicated since the first day he stepped into our building last training camp that he wanted to be a Raven for the long haul."