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Rolle Signs Deal With Ravens

By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 8, 2005; Page D01

The Baltimore Ravens continue to benefit from the Tennessee Titans' recent salary cap purge. Five days after upgrading their offense by signing veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason, the Ravens improved their defense by signing cornerback Samari Rolle to a six-year contract.

Both Rolle and Mason, who have appeared in three Pro Bowls between them, were among the six players released by the Titans last month because of salary cap concerns.

Cornerback Samari Rolle is the second Titan to join the Ravens in five days, signing a six-year contract yesterday. (Mark Humphrey -- AP)

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The signing of Rolle helps bolster a Baltimore secondary that lost cornerback Gary Baxter to the Cleveland Browns. Baxter appeared to be close to re-signing with the Ravens last week, but bolted for the Browns on Friday after the tentative deal unraveled. That cleared the way for Rolle, whose agent contacted the Ravens on Friday night.

"Any time we're involved in free agency, I've learned over the years, the deal is not done until you get the ink on the paper," Baltimore General Manager Ozzie Newsome said. "We're continuously looking to improve our football team. When something happens, we just move on to the next."

Rolle, 28, is considered to be a superior cover man and was one of the top defensive players available in the free-agent market. Financial terms of his deal were not available.

In seven seasons with the Titans, Rolle had 23 interceptions and 257 tackles, and he either led or tied for the Tennessee team lead in interceptions four times. He also gives the Ravens a pair of Pro Bowlers at cornerback; Rolle was named to the game in 2000, and Chris McAlister earned the honor in 2003 and 2004.

"When you have that caliber of corners, quantifiable talent, on the outside, it gives you a great deal of latitude to do a number of things," Ravens Coach Brian Billick said. "I can envision standing on the sidelines at some point, saying to Rex [Ryan, Baltimore's defensive coordinator], 'Now Rex, you don't have to blitz every single down.' It gives you a lot of latitude."

The 6-foot, 175-pound Rolle has been durable despite missing the final four games of last season because of arthroscopic knee surgery. At least one other team was reportedly hesitant about signing Rolle because of concerns unrelated to his knee; the Kansas City Star reported that the Chiefs' medical staff discovered a narrowing of Rolle's spinal column during his physical.

"It's the same thing I was born with," Rolle said. "When I was [in Kansas City], it never came up, but it's funny, I'm coming up here and that's all you hear. I was getting calls about my spine this morning, and you know, I don't worry about those things."

Rolle has had two incidents regarding his neck and spine in his career, though neither led to an extended absence. As a rookie in 1998, he experienced some numbness after a collision with a teammate during training camp. He subsequently missed three preseason games and the season opener, but returned to play in 15 games. In a game against the Ravens in October 2001, Rolle bruised his spinal cord when his helmet struck the hip of a player following a run. He missed the next two games.

Baltimore officials expressed no concerns about Rolle's health, however, and Rolle passed his physical yesterday, then signed with the team. That leaves the Chiefs still in the market for a cornerback, possibly the Redskins' Fred Smoot.

"I have a lot of trust in [Baltimore trainer] Bill Tessendorf and the staff and the doctors that we have," Newsome said. "They did their due diligence."

Rolle was joined by his wife, Danisha, at the Ravens' training complex in Owings Mills, Md. He was arrested on charges of domestic assault following an altercation with his wife last month and is to appear in court April 6 in Franklin, Tenn.

"It's a legal matter that we can't comment on," Rolle said of the charges. "But my wife has been with me on every trip, and we're in love, and everything will work out."

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