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With rookies scheduled to report to Owings Mills for the start of training camp on Sunday, the Ravens announced Thursday that they’ve agreed in principle to a four-year deal with first-round safety Matt Elam.
The contract will be officially signed when Elam arrives at the team’s facility along with the rest of the rookie class, quarterbacks, and injured veterans on Sunday. The 32nd overall pick from the University of Florida, Elam is the last of the Ravens’ 10 draft picks to ink his contract.
His deal includes an option for a fifth year and was never considered in doubt to be completed by the start of camp with the NFL’s slotting system that’s eliminated the past drama of rookie signings since the new collective bargaining agreement was signed two summers ago. Elam didn’t hire an agent, instead relying on his older brother and veteran NFL safety Abram Elam and other advisors for guidance in completing the rookie deal.
The slotted amount for the 32nd pick of the draft is worth a total of $6.767 million over the four years and includes a $3.3 million signing bonus. Elam’s 2013 cap number is projected to be $1.231 million.
The 5-foot-10, 210-pound safety is expected to compete with veteran James Ihedigbo for the starting strong safety job next to free-agent acquisition Michael Huff in the revamped Baltimore secondary. Elam played in 39 career games for the Gators, starting his final 26 contests and collecting 176 tackles, six interceptions, 24 tackles for a loss, and five sacks.
“We’re both interchangeable,” Huff said during spring organized team activities. “We can both play strong safety, free safety, we can both play the nickel. We can do it all, so that way, offenses don’t know who’s doing what before the snap. I think it will help the defense.”
While Huff faces the difficult task of following in the footsteps of future Hall of Famer Ed Reed at free safety, Elam is expected to bring a physical presence similar to departed strong safety Bernard Pollard, who punished opponents with big hits and often played closer to the line of scrimmage.
In his final season in Gainesville as a junior, Elam became the second safety in school history to be named a first-team All-American, with Reggie Nelson being the first in 2006.
In April, Elam became the ninth defensive player to be selected in the first round by general manager Ozzie Newsome in the 18-year history of the franchise. He will join linebacker Terrell Suggs, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, and cornerback Jimmy Smith as former first-round picks selected by Baltimore who are on the current defense.
As the first of four straight defensive players — second-round inside linebacker Arthur Brown, third-round nose tackle Brandon Williams, and fourth-round outside linebacker John Simon being the others — to be selected by the Ravens at the head of their 2013 draft class, Elam understands expectations will be high to continue the tradition of great Baltimore defense despite an offseason full of changes.
“I don’t want anything given, because if it’s given, it’s not earned,” Elam said in late April. “With two great safeties leaving, I feel like it’s a great opportunity for me to come in and keep on improving and do the great things that they did and win championships and win games.”