Ravens sign DE McCrary, open talks with Siragusa TTC Ex-Seahawk's addition increases likelihood of trading down No. 4

April 08, 1997|By Mike Preston and Gary Lambrecht | Mike Preston and Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

The Ravens fulfilled their dire need for a pass-rushing threat yesterday by signing free-agent right defensive end Michael McCrary to a three-year, $6 million contract, a move that increased the chances the team will trade down its No. 4 overall pick in the NFL draft.

Also yesterday, a team source said the club has begun preliminary negotiations with defensive tackle Tony Siragusa, who played under Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda when they were both with the Indianapolis Colts two years ago.

Siragusa and ex-Seattle Seahawk McCrary are part of a plan to rebuild the Ravens' front defensive seven and improve a pass rush that collected a league-low 30 sacks last season.

The Ravens had expressed much interest in taking Florida State defensive end Peter Boulware, the highest-rated pass rusher in the draft, with their first pick.

But with McCrary, the Ravens can go after a bona fide linebacker in the first round instead of gambling on Boulware. who eventually might have been moved to the unfamiliar position of outside linebacker.

Now the Ravens can focus on coming away with one of three outside linebackers -- Alabama's Dwayne Rudd or Virginia's James Farrior or Jamie Sharper -- in the first round. Rudd and Farrior are rated a cut above Sharper.

The Ravens should be able to land one of the three, even though owner Art Modell wants to trade down because of salary-cap concerns and the possibility of acquiring more quality players in exchange for the No. 4 pick.

The Ravens paid left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden a $6.8 million signing bonus when they drafted him fourth a year ago.

The team reportedly is talking trade with Detroit (which has the No. 5 pick), Tampa Bay, Arizona, Miami and the New York Giants.

"We're concentrating on moving out of our fourth slot, although we still might stay there," Modell said. "Peter Boulware won't be a consideration now that we have Michael."

Said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel: "When you get a guy off a college campus, you have to be concerned with him making adjustments from one level to the next. We don't have to worry about that with Michael. He has put up the numbers already. He's game-ready.

"As for the draft, we might stay at No. 4 if the player available can impact our club. We're in a very, very good position that has a lot of possibilities."

The Ravens have 38 players under contract and are about $3.5 million under the salary cap. To stay at the No. 4 position, the team probably would have to waive several players or restructure their contracts.

According to a team source, the team is likely to waive veteran defensive tackle Dan Footman, a move that would save it $1.35 million in cap funds for this season.

Siragusa would help fill the void left by Footman and give the Ravens three solid players up front, including James Jones and Larry Webster, if Webster is re-instated after being suspended for violating the league's substance-abuse policy last year.

The 6-foot-3, 320-pound Siragusa, 29, is known for controlling play in the middle of the line of scrimmage and had 57 tackles last season despite missing six games with a knee injury. He earned $1.11 million in salary last year.

McCrary, 26, started the last 13 games last season and finished with 13 1/2 sacks, second highest in the NFL. All of those sacks came in the season's final eight games, when he collected most of his 76 tackles.

McCrary, 6-4 and 260 pounds, collected a $1.9 million signing bonus yesterday and will make $200,000 in salary this season. The salary will rises to $1.4 million next year and to $2.5 million in 1999.

"This is a major relief. The big thing was signing with a team I was comfortable with," McCrary said. "I'm strictly business. I'm about getting things done, and I bring a little enthusiasm, too. I think [the Ravens] are doing the right thing to help out their defense. There will be some changes."

The Ravens continue to change the face of a defense that was the league's worst last year, allowing 441 points. They released free safety Eric Turner last month, and with the addition of McCrary, the Ravens will not try to re-sign veteran Anthony Pleasant.

"It's obvious now Anthony will be playing for another team next season," said Neil Cornrich, Pleasant's agent. "There was a strong interest on the Ravens' part to re-sign him and a strong interest by Anthony to return, but the Ravens decided to go in another direction. We wish them well."

The signing of McCrary points to the Ravens running a 4-3 defense next season. They now have their two starting defensive ends under contract with McCrary and veteran Rob Burnett.

"[McCrary] is superior to any of the other [free-agent] defensive ends we were talking about," Marchibroda said. "What I like about this guy is he paid his dues. He was an outstanding special-teamer who contributed even when he didn't play much in Seattle. He was worth the wait."

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