In a move that likely ends the Baltimore Ravens' brief flirtation this week with former Jacksonville Jaguars starting quarterback Byron Leftwich, the team on Thursday signed backup Kyle Boller to a one-year contract extension through the 2008 season.
The deal is believed to be worth $3 million-$4 million and bolsters the Ravens' depth chart at quarterback for the foreseeable future. Boller was entering the final year of his original rookie contract, signed in 2003, and had a scheduled base salary of $1.79 million.
Without the extension, Boller, the 19th overall player chosen in the 2003 draft, would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring. It was widely believed during the offseason that Boller would opt for free agency and depart Baltimore for an opportunity to start elsewhere. But the former University of California star had a strong presesason, and Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome ratcheted up efforts to retain him.
"This is good news for us," head coach Brian Billick said in a statement released by the team. "We have said all along how important Kyle is to this team, and this secures him for at least another season for us."
Boller, 26, started all 16 games for Baltimore in 2004, was limited by injuries to nine starts in 2005, then lost his starting job to
Steve McNair last season when the Ravens acquired the veteran from the Tennessee Titans in a trade. Boller has started 34 careers games and has a record of 18-16, but mostly was a disappointment in Billick's offense.
The Ravens' brass felt, however, that Boller had progressed in the offense this summer and that enhanced his value. Last season, as a backup, Boller had a passer rating of 104.0, one of the highest in the league among No. 2 quarterbacks.
Keeping the four-year veteran Boller provides the Ravens considerable security. McNair clearly eroded over the second half of last season and, at age 34, likely does not have many more productive seasons left. The No. 3 quarterback on the roster is Troy Smith of Ohio State, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.
Some view Smith as the Ravens' quarterback for the long-term future but, with the new extension, Boller could be given the opportunity to reclaim his starting spot somewhere down the road.
For his career, Boller has completed 578 of 1,036 passes for 6,103 yards. He has thrown 36 touchdown passes and 34 interceptions and owns a career passer rating of 71.0.
"I am ecstatic [about the extension]," Boller said. "Baltimore is the place I really want to be. The Ravens have the best organization in the NFL, and I feel very fortunate that I'm going to continue to be a part of it. I'm thankful for the confidence that they've shown in me, and hopefully, I can play here for a long time."
Newsome had spoken to the representatives for Leftwich, released by the Jaguars last week, in recent days. The Ravens considered drafting Leftwich in 2003, and clearly liked him, but opted to stay with Boller as their primary backup.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.