Ravens to stand pat for a month Receiver, cornerback still on June wish list

May 08, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Barring injuries, the Ravens will not make any major roster moves until after the first week in June, according to Ozzie Newsome, the team's vice president of player personnel.

Like most teams, the Ravens will begin hitting the free-agent market again June 1, when clubs can release players and not have to take the full acceleration of signing bonuses. The Ravens are expected to release veteran quarterback Vinny Testaverde after June 1, and he is the only starter likely to be waived.

Newsome said the Ravens have the contract rights to 87 players, but only 81 will be invited to training camp in mid-July. The Ravens are $2.3 million under the salary cap and will add another $1.6 million when they waive Testaverde, but most of his salary will be used to sign the team's seven draft picks. The Ravens' rookie pool number is $2.73 million.

"I feel very good about where we are now," Newsome said. "Our expectations are not unreal. This is our best team since we moved here. Unlike the previous two years, we now have enough cap money in reserve that if we have a substantial injury or we need a player, we can still go out and get one.

"We're pretty much set right now, but after June 1 we're prepared to take a look at certain players who may be available. That player still has to fit into our category of right player, right price," Newsome said.

Newsome said the team would still like to sign a veteran cornerback and wide receiver, but the classification seems to have changed for the cornerback. The Ravens aren't necessarily looking for a starter, but a role player who can work in extra-man coverages with starters Duane Starks, the team's No. 1 draft pick out of Miami, and Rod Woodson, as well as challenge third-year player DeRon Jenkins for playing time.

There is still a remote chance that Carolina cornerback Tyrone Poole might be available even though Panthers officials have said Poole is no longer on the trade market.

Another player who might become available is Indianapolis sixth-year cornerback Carlton Gray, 6 feet and 190 pounds. Before last season, Gray had started 45 of the 53 games in which he played. He started 13 for the Colts last season and finished with 29 tackles, two interceptions and seven knocked-down passes.

Gray is not a physical player, but known more for his coverage ability. Indianapolis was desperate for a cornerback last season and signed Gray to a four-year contract. Gray is expected to make $1.4 million in base salary this season, but might be expendable because he was signed by Bill Tobin, the Colts' former vice president of football operations. Bill Polian, who has a working history with Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda, now runs the Colts' daily operations.

Another veteran who might get waived is Tampa Bay eighth-year cornerback Anthony Parker, who started 15 games last season. Parker, who has a year left on his contract, had 75 tackles, one interception and knocked down 11 passes.

The Buccaneers, though, might hold off on a decision on the 5-10, 185-pound Parker until training camp because they don't know if first-year players Rhonde Barber and Floyd Young or rookie Brian Kelly can do the job.

"First, you have to see what other teams have drafted and then you can predict some things," Newsome said. "We have a pretty good idea of who is going to be available and we have been watching tape on some of them. We've had some discussions with other teams, but nothing we're going to pursue right now.

"If I had to put our needs in priority, it would be at cornerback because we open with two teams that use four-receiver sets," Newsome said. "Our situation has improved with the draft and we're pleased with everything DeRon has been doing up to this point. We're looking for depth."

Newsome wasn't optimistic about finding a third receiver behind starters Michael Jackson and Jermaine Lewis, and said the team was satisfied with the competition at left guard, where Sale Isaia will challenge Ben Cavil, James Atkins and Alex Bernstein for the starting job.

"People have forgotten that Sale was projected as a possible starter until he hurt his knee in training camp last year, but he is a real competitor and has a great attitude," Newsome said. "Ben played and started for us last year, so we know what he can do and Atkins is a proven starter in this league."

Pub Date: 5/08/98

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