Ravens want DT Siragusa if he can fit in their cap Decisions about draft to influence team's pursuit

April 09, 1997|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Because of salary cap limitations, the Ravens will likely have to choose to sign either free-agent defensive tackle Tony Siragusa of the Indianapolis Colts or Seattle Seahawks safety Robert Blackmon, according to team officials.

Neither one is expected to be signed by the Ravens until after the annual NFL draft on April 19.

"Siragusa might be more important than Blackmon right now in the total scheme of things," Ravens owner Art Modell said. "We're not exactly wanting back there at safety. We've signed Stevon Moore. We've got Donny Brady, a corner, a very bright young kid who is going to be a football player. We've got Rondell Jones."

The Ravens also have at least six former prominent players -- Andre Rison, Leroy Hoard, Pepper Johnson, Don Griffin, Eric Turner and Tony Jones -- who have partial salaries (totaling JTC nearly $6.5 million) counting against this year's salary cap.

The Ravens are $3.5 million under the league's $41.45 million salary cap.

"There are options for us, like we could restructure several players' contracts," said Ozzie Newsome, the team's vice president of player personnel. "But we don't want to do a lot of that because we'll have a pretty clean slate after this year with some of those former players not counting against the cap."

"Most likely, we'll wait and see what happens with the draft," Newsome said. "If we trade down far enough, that could free up $2 million where we could go out and sign a Siragusa or a Blackmon, or re-sign a player like outside linebacker Mike Caldwell."

Newsome also hinted that Siragusa was more of a priority than Blackmon, saying the team would draft a safety with one of its 12 picks. The Ravens have four safeties under contract, even though Moore is the group's only proven starter.

But the Ravens' situation is even more severe at defensive tackle, where they have only one starter, James Jones, who is not a bona fide run stopper. Larry Webster could help the Ravens in that role, pending his appeal after a year's suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.

Siragusa was hot property nearly a month ago, visiting the Cincinnati Bengals, Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders. But teams seemed to cool on the eight-year veteran until last week when Siragusa rejected a two-year deal worth $1.2 million a season from the Colts. Siragusa made $1.11 million in salary last year.

"The Ravens have a real legitimate shot at Siragusa," a source close to the negotiations said. "The Colts' offer is virtually off the table because they signed a defensive lineman last week. [Ravens coach Ted] Marchibroda and Goose are real tight. They have a mutual admiration for each other."

Siragusa's agent, Gus Sunseri, did not return telephone calls yesterday, but there is speculation he wants an average of $1.5 million a season during the next three years.

Siragusa, 29, had 57 tackles last season despite missing six games with a knee injury. Blackmon had a career-high 102 tackles in 16 games last season. His salary demand could range as high as $2 million per season for the next four years.

Pub Date: 4/09/97

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