Billick hoping to name Cavanaugh aide today

Linebackers assistant, 3 others added to staff

January 27, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Ravens coach Brian Billick is aiming to add Matt Cavanaugh to his staff as his offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach today.

Cavanaugh, who has spent the past two seasons under the same title with the Chicago Bears, interviewed for the offensive coordinator position in Jacksonville, where he reportedly was offered the job on Monday. Cavanaugh and Billick spoke at length about the Ravens' job last week at the site of the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

Cavanaugh was expected to arrive in Baltimore last night.

"I hope to have Matt on board by [today]. He is clearly my first choice," Billick said. "He's a top coach, and he's paid his dues as a coach. He's got head-coaching potential about him."

Billick took four more steps toward completing his coaching staff yesterday by hiring linebackers coach Jack Del Rio, special teams coach Russ Purnell, tight ends coach Wade Harman and strength and conditioning coach Jeff Friday.

Harman, 35, and Friday, 32, worked previously with Billick in Minnesota. In addition to his tight ends duty, Harman will assist the offensive line coach, whom Billick has yet to hire. Billick lost his top candidate, Mike Solari, who has decided to remain the line coach in Kansas City.

Del Rio, 35, who played middle linebacker for four teams -- including the Vikings (1992-1995) -- over 11 seasons, coached linebackers last year in New Orleans. Saints coach Mike Ditka allowed Del Rio to leave with a year remaining on his contract. Del Rio presumably could not pass up the chance to work with players like Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware, each of whom is headed to next month's Pro Bowl.

"I worked with Jack when he was a player for the Vikings, and he'll bring the unique perspective of playing 11 years as an NFL linebacker to our relatively young group," Billick said. "I think that background will be an invaluable resource for players like Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware and Jamie Sharper, along with the other young veterans we have there."

Purnell, 50, spent the past four seasons coaching special teams with the Tennessee Oilers. Before that, he coached in the same capacity for nine years in Seattle.

"I hope to complete my staff soon," Billick said. "Above all other qualities, I want teachers. I think I've got excellent diversity on the staff, in terms of age, social, economic, ethnic and experience background. I don't just want clones of the NFL."

Billick expects to begin evaluating Ravens personnel and potential free agents with the team's front office staff next week. He said he hopes to meet with quarterback Jim Harbaugh soon, and would like to see Harbaugh throw sometime in the next month.

Billick delicately addressed the possibility that the Ravens could swing a trade for Minnesota quarterback Brad Johnson, who suffered a broken leg early last season and lost his job to Randall Cunningham. Johnson, 30, is signed through 2000 and is due to collect about $4 million in salary and roster bonuses next year. He has said he would rather not serve as Cunningham's backup in 1999.

Teams can begin signing free agents and making trades on Feb. 12.

Billick worked extensively with Johnson in Minnesota, helping to turn the ninth-round draft pick out of Florida State into a starter who led the Vikings to the playoffs in 1996 and 1997.

"Minnesota will have to make a fundamental decision in the next couple of weeks. Brad is determined to play somewhere, and I think Minnesota realizes that," Billick said. "Regarding our possible interest in Brad because of our pre-existing relationship and Brad's interest in coming to a team of this caliber with an offense he's comfortable with and with a head coach he knows very well, certainly that's a ready-made scenario.

"But we're not going to be the final factor in this. Regardless of our friendship, [Vikings head coach] Denny Green is going to do what's best for the Vikings. I've got to believe there will be a lot of teams interested [in Johnson]. He's an outstanding quarterback who could help a lot of teams. My sense is there's going to be an offer that Minnesota cannot pass up."

Pub Date: 1/27/99

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