Jones: No communication cost Ravens

Baltimore didn't make formal offer in time, defensive tackle says

February 19, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

The Ravens said he was a high free-agency priority. The Jacksonville Jaguars offered him more money. But in the end, defensive tackle James Jones said the Detroit Lions made him feel most wanted.

Jones, who signed a four-year, $15.6 million contract this week with the Lions, a deal that included a $4.3 million bonus, said he would have loved to return to the franchise with which he has spent all but one year of his eight-year career.

The problem, he said, came down to a failure to communicate.

Jones said that, in the days leading up to the opening of free agency on Feb. 12, the Ravens and his agent, Jack Wirth, had only preliminary conversations. Pat Moriarty, the Ravens' administrator charged with the task of re-signing Jones, said he and Wirth had exchanged initial proposals.

But the talks never progressed beyond that, and by the time Jones began to test the market, he still had not received a formal offer.

"Had I gotten an offer [from the Ravens] before free agency started, I would seriously have considered a deal. But once the market opened, each [interested] team was going to get a fair shot," Jones said.

"They kept telling me I was a priority. You can talk the talk. What are you going to do? Before free agency began, I was thinking, why aren't we getting something done? Don't you want your priority players signed before they test the market? They could have at least kept the communication lines open."

Jones said he sympathized with the organization's hectic postseason, which started with a nearly monthlong search that ultimately yielded new head coach Brian Billick. But after Billick was hired on Jan. 19, Jones wondered when the team would approach him with a contract offer.

"I understand they had to take care of that first," Jones said. "But once he was hired and they had a good idea that they wanted to keep me, I started feeling this could have been done a lot faster. But I'm past that now."

Jones moved quickly into the future once he took a flight on Monday to Detroit, which had called him last Friday and identified him as their No. 1 free-agent target. The Lions scheduled Jones as their first free-agent visitor.

Things progressed at a rapid pace from there. His lengthy meeting with coach Bobby Ross went well. He liked the look of the Lions' roster, especially fellow defensive linemen like Robert Porcher.

And Detroit weighed in with an offer strong enough to make Jones change his mind on Tuesday. Instead of flying to Jacksonville, he left Jaguars representatives waiting at the the local airport and decided to take the Lions' offer.

"Once I factored in everything -- winning, finances, where I'm going to be happy, I felt like [Detroit] was the best place for me and my family," said Jones, who turned 30 earlier this month. "I plan on this being my last stop.

"I'm not into bashing anybody. I was with the [Browns/Ravens] organization for seven years, had a lot of good times and I made friends there that I'm going to have for life. They have some good young [defensive] linemen like Lional Dalton and Martin Chase and Larry Fitzpatrick. And I think they've found themselves a good coach. They'll be ready to go."

Pub Date: 2/19/99

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