McAlister can lose the franchise tag now

LANDOVER, Md. -- Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister has
signed a seven-year contract that will enable Baltimore to keep the
Pro Bowl player through 2010 and allow him to shed his unwanted tag
as the team's franchise player.

McAlister and the Ravens reached an agreement Saturday
afternoon, general manager Ozzie Newsome said Sunday night before
Baltimore faced the Washington Redskins.

McAlister has been the team's franchise player for two straight
seasons. He made so secret of his displeasure over the designation,
and sat out most of training camp this summer as a protest -- even
though he was assured of making $7.1 million this year.

"Chris can go out and cover some of the better receivers in the
league. He proved that last year and this year," Newsome said. "I
think we've shown that you win with defense, and if you're going to
play good defense you've got to have good corners."

McAlister's agent, Mitch Frankel, and the Ravens had been
talking since August about a new contract, and the sides drew
closer in recent weeks before finally closing the deal.

The Ravens would not disclose the terms of the deal, and Frankel
did not immediately return phone calls from The Associated Press.

The 27-year-old McAlister was drafted by the Ravens with the
10th overall pick in the 1999 draft. He earned a Pro Bowl berth for
the first time last season after making three interceptions and
batting away 16 passes.

His 15 interceptions rank fourth on the Ravens' career list.
Coming into Sunday night's game he had one interception this
season, which he returned for a touchdown, and ranked fourth on the
team with 52 tackles.

McAlister wasn't available to comment, but Newsome said the
cornerback was delighted to finally get a deal.

"Oh, yeah. Having to go through the franchise tag twice, I
don't think he wanted to do that," Newsome said.

McAlister had said that being a franchise player hindered his
effort to sign a long-term contract. He won't have to worry about
that anymore.

"There's no doubt that he's going to be paid as one of the
better cornerbacks in the league and one of the better defensive
players in the league," Newsome said. "From the Ravens' position,
this just is another one of our commitments to retain as many
players as we can as we move forward."

McAlister served as one of the Ravens' co-captains Sunday night.