McGahee traded to Ravens, signs long-term deal

Updated: March 8, 2007, 10:08 PM ET
By Michael Smith and Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

The Ravens and Bills agreed to a trade Thursday that will send running back Willis McGahee to Baltimore in exchange for the team's third and seventh-round picks in this year's draft, along with the Ravens' third-round pick in 2008.

Jeremy Green's take
Green
The Ravens reacted quickly to the loss of Jamal Lewis to Cleveland by trading for Buffalo's Willis McGahee, a running back with a lot more versatility than Lewis. McGahee can run inside and outside, is a lot quicker to the hole and can make people miss. It's a huge upgrade for the Ravens, because Lewis was basically a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust runner at this point. He was a sitting duck for tacklers, while McGahee is much more of a moving target.

Hours after the trade was announced Thursday afternoon, ESPN.com learned McGahee will sign a new seven-year contract with Baltimore, the last two seasons of which are options years, that can be worth a total of $40.12 million. In terms of so-called "new money," the contract places McGahee among the NFL's five highest-paid running backs.

McGahee will receive an initial signing bonus of $7.5 million and subsequent option bonuses of $6 million after the 2007 season and $1.5 million following the 2008 season, for a total of $15 million. The base salaries are $595,000 (2007), $605,000 ('08), $620,000 ('09), $3.6 million ('10), $6 million ('11), $6.5 million ('12) and $7.2 million ('13).

Even without the option years at the end of the contract, the deal is worth $26.42 million over five years.

Buffalo dealt McGahee in anticipation of difficulty re-signing him.

For the Ravens, it's the second year in a row they pulled off a trade for a marquee veteran. Last year they dealt for Tennessee Titans quarteback Steve McNair, who led the Ravens to the AFC North title.

"This is a runner who can make people miss and has the explosion and speed to take it the distance," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "He also has the power and size to run inside. He's a viable receiver out of the backfield and is a good pass blocker, not something every back can do.

"He also plays physical and with toughness, which are things we pride ourselves on here."

Ravens coach Brian Billick was also pleased with the deal.

"We're getting a dynamic back who has the potential to diversify our running game," Billick said. "Getting a player as good as Willis is another example of how Ozzie and his department size up the market and use our resources well."

The Titans were also reportedly interested in dealing for McGahee.

The Bills, whose remaining running backs are Daimon Shelton and Shaud Williams, are now in the market for multiple backs. They have shown interest in the Colts' Dominic Rhodes and the Titans' Chris Brown, and both have visited the team. Former Patriots running back Corey Dillon has not visited Orchard Park, but the Bills are said to be interested.

Buffalo's first-round pick out of Miami in 2003, McGahee is coming off a down season in which he finished with a career-low 990 yards rushing, but led the team with six rushing touchdowns in 14 starts.

Willis McGahee
AP Photo/Don HeupelWillis McGahee and the Ravens went from discussing an extension to agreeing on one in a matter of hours.

In 2005, he had 1,247 yards rushing and five touchdowns in 15 starts. He established himself as the Bills starter in 2004 with 1,128 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns in 11 starts. That performance led the team to trade former starter Travis Henry to Tennessee the following summer.

McGahee sat out his rookie season recovering from major knee surgery.

Bills coach Dick Jauron sidestepped questions why the team decided to trade McGahee, especially considering Buffalo does not have an immediate replacement for him on its roster.

Jauron simply said the deal was too good to pass up and that it benefited both teams.

Asked if McGahee had requested a trade, Jauron replied: "That's a good question for you to ask him."

The Bills have been disappointed in McGahee for conducting most of his offseason workouts in his native Miami, rather than traveling to the team's Orchard Park headquarters. McGahee also created a stir when he was quoted in a magazine article suggesting the NFL consider moving the Bills to Toronto, a comment he later said was taken out of context.

Michael Smith and Len Pasquarelli are senior writers for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Michael Smith

NFL Senior Writer
Michael Smith joined ESPN in July 2004 as a National Football League senior writer for ESPN.com, covering league news and major events such as the NFL Draft, NFL Playoffs and the Super Bowl, and continues to write breaking news stories. He is also a correspondent for E:60, ESPN's first multi-themed prime-time newsmagazine program, which debuted October 2007.

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