Following a tryout and passing a physical, imposing former St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans wide receiver Drew Bennett was signed to a one-year contract for the veteran minimum of $745,000.
Bennett, 30, was the consensus favorite of the Ravens over the other three wide receivers that auditioned: D.J. Hackett, Chris Hannon and Justin Brown.
Bennett was cut by the Rams this offseason two years after signing a six-year, $30 million contract. He caught just one pass last season as he broke a bone in his left foot in the first game, a problem that seems to have been resolved.
"I’m probably healthier now than I was two years ago, and two years ago I was the hot commodity," Bennett said. "People were asking to fly me around. Now, it’s like I’m begging to get in the door.
"It definitely makes me a little bit hungrier to prove myself. When it’s low expectations, I seem to do well. I think it’s a good spot for me. Hopefully, I can get in the door and impress some people and play."
For his eight-year career, Bennett has caught 307 passes for 4,412 yards and 28 touchdowns. That included a career-high season in 2004 in Tennessee with 80 receptions for 1,247 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The 6-foot-5, 196-pound former UCLA quarterback is regarded as a sure-handed red-zone threat and a willing blocker who has deceptive speed and quickness.
"At this time of year, it’s good to be able to pick up a player who has been very productive in the league, and that includes against our defense," general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. "Drew has been very competitive against us. We obviously liked his workout.
"We wanted to make sure he was healthy and that he still had the things we’ve seen against us and on film. Drew’s situation is a lot like L.J. Smith. Both are proven veterans coming off injuries, and they are looking for the opportunity to resurrect their careers.”
With the Rams, Bennett caught just 34 passes for 379 yards and three touchdowns in two seasons.
Between 2004 and 2006 in Tennessee, he averaged 61 receptions for 907 yards and six touchdowns per season.
After visits this offseason with the Titans, Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bennett is looking forward to proving himself again.
"I thought it went well," Bennett said. "I feel good. I feel healthy, I feel strong, all the corny stuff you say when you have a workout.
"I feel like I’m in good shape and it went well. I caught the ball well. I feel comfortable. I liked the people I met here."
Bennett said that the foot injury is definitely no longer an issue.
"It took a lot longer than I thought it would," Bennett said. "I thought it was going to be six to eight weeks, and really it was bothering me all the way up until February.
"It took a little while to get back into where I don’t feel it at all. It’s been probably three months now since I’ve had any problems with it or felt it at all.
Meanwhile, Hackett, who has played for the Carolina Panthers and the Seattle Seahawks and caught 118 career passes for 1,575 yards and nine touchdowns, seemed somewhat somber following the workout.
Hackett indicated that he wasn’t asked to stay in town to take a physical and was headed to the airport.
"I’m going back home," Hackett said. "The workout went good, it was just running routes. Everything went fine."
Hackett was invited to try out for the Ravens during a minicamp earlier this year along with Kelley Washington, Jerry Porter and Tab Perry. However, Hackett was unable to attend the workout due to his wife’s pregnancy.
The Ravens wound up signing Washington to a one-year, veteran minimum contract.
Now, the Ravens are hoping to convince Mason, who has been dealing with a personal family issue, the death of his close friend, former Ravens and Titans quarterback Steve McNair, and an unresolved contract situation as he heads into the final year of a five-year, $20 million deal, to rejoin the team.
"D-Mase is still a good friend of mine, so I would love a chance, especially coming to a team with new guys, to be able to have somebody that you’re comfortable with right off the bat," Bennett said. "But I think D-Mase will find his way. He’s always been very passionate. I think if he’s ready to take the next step in his life, then so be it. And if he’s not, then he’ll be back."
NOTES: The Ravens also tried out undrafted rookie linebacker Josh Mauga (Nevada) and brought in a rookie quarterback to throw to the receivers. … The Ravens have made significant progress in negotiations with first-round offensive tackle Michael Oher, but they are not close to a deal with with second-round defensive end-outside linebacker Paul Kruger.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.