Cofield leaning toward Baltimore

March 03, 1995|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

To an already striking cast of current or former Canadian Football League all-stars, Baltimore appears on the verge of adding even more defensive clout.

Tim Cofield, erstwhile rush end of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, showed up at Memorial Stadium yesterday sounding very much like a man eager to make Charm City his new work address.

"I like Memphis," he said, "but Baltimore is at the top of the list right now."

Cofield, the most sought-after defensive player in this year's pool of veteran CFL free agents, visited Memphis' expansion team a week ago, and declined a similar offer from Birmingham. He has one more stop -- believed to be with the Carolina Panthers of the NFL -- before reaching a decision next week.

Unless that NFL team overwhelms Cofield, 31, with a large financial offer, he's expected to sign a three-year deal that will make him Baltimore's second-highest-paid defensive player.

Nose tackle Jearld Baylis, with an average base salary of $95,000 for his three-year contract, is the team's highest-paid defensive player. Quarterback Tracy Ham, averaging $288,000 over three years, is the team's marquee player.

"He's going to have to choose us like [Deion] Sanders chose the 49ers last year," coach Don Matthews said of Cofield. "We've made him a very good offer, but we're not like the new expansion teams. We don't have as much salary cap money to spend. He has to factor in our success and our chance to get back to the Grey Cup."

Sanders took less money to play in San Francisco -- for a shot at the Super Bowl -- than he was offered elsewhere last season. Cofield, likewise, said he was looking for more than financial reward from his new team.

"I'm looking for a team . . . that I know will win some games," he said. "Not like the team I was with the last couple of years, where we couldn't win more than five a year."

Asked if it was possible he might return to Hamilton, where he had 35 sacks the last two years for a team that won only 11 games, Cofield said, "No way."

Matthews has penciled in Cofield at strong-side rush end, bumping Elfrid Payton to the weak side of the field. That also would move O. J. Brigance to a blitzing middle linebacker position more suited to his skills.

"Tim improves the team by three positions," assistant general manager Jim Popp said. "We'd have a tremendous pass-rushing defense if he comes here."

Cofield, 6 feet 2 and 245 pounds, would draw the double-team blocks. That, in turn, would single up Baylis and Payton. "I'm looking at a good sack season because he'll free me to be one-on-one," Payton said.

On paper, Cofield's arrival figures to give Baltimore the CFL's best pass rush and probably its best defense. Four other players were the outstanding defensive nominees on previous teams and Cofield was the Eastern Division's Outstanding Defensive Player of 1994 with 16 sacks.

More importantly, Cofield would enhance Baltimore's chances of returning to the Grey Cup, which they lost last season. "If Tim comes, it would improve our chances tremendously," Brigance said.

NOTE: Free-agent center Mike Kiselak, who played at Maryland, said he'll probably choose between Baltimore and San Antonio in the next few days.

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