McCrary seeking deal for $42M

Extension would make him NFL's best-paid DE

team, Blackshear close

May 28, 1999|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

The agent for Michael McCrary has initially proposed a contract extension that would pay the Ravens' Pro Bowl defensive end close to $42 million over the next six years, making him the highest-paid player on the team and best-paid defensive end in the league, a source familiar with the negotiations said.

Also yesterday, Ravens starting offensive guard Jeff Blackshear said he was close to agreeing to a contract extension, one that would pay him $18 million to $20 million during the next five seasons, according to a team source. Both players have one year remaining on their contracts, but the Ravens have expressed interest in re-signing both before they can hit the free-agent market after the 1999 season.

If McCrary and the Ravens reached an agreement on the proposal, then McCrary would surpass the four-year contract extension signed by Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis last November, which averages $6.5 million a season. Lewis has led the team in tackles all three seasons he has been here.

McCrary, in his seventh NFL season, earned Pro Bowl honors for the first time last year when he finished second on the team in tackles with 102, compared to 154 for Lewis, and second in the AFC with 14.5 sacks.

McCrary's agent, Michael George, was unavailable to comment. Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel, denied local broadcasts reports that the team had been involved in any trade talks about McCrary, except when the Minnesota Vikings were interested in an exchange for quarterback Brad Johnson.

"We would like for Michael McCrary to very much remain a Ravens player," Newsome said. "We have another meeting planned with his agent next week to exchange proposals. Ideally, we would like to get both of these deals done before the start of the season."

McCrary is one of several top defensive ends who could become free agents at the end of the season. New York Giants All-Pro Michael Strahan, who had 15 sacks last season and is in the last year of his contract, is about to enter negotiations and could demand as much as McCrary.

Seattle offered Michael Sinclair, who has two years remaining on his contract, a four-year extension worth $3.5 million a season before recently withdrawing it. Sinclair, one of the league's best pass rushers the past two seasons, will make $1.7 million this season and $2.5 million in 2000 under his old contact. McCrary is expected to make $2.5 million in base salary this season.

The highest-paid defensive ends are Buffalo's Bruce Smith, who averages $5.1 million, and New England's Willie McGinest and Indianapolis' Chad Bratzke, each averaging $5 million. McCrary has said he would like to stay in Baltimore, but if he doesn't re-sign by the beginning of the 1999 season, he will entertain offers from other teams after the season is completed.

"Actually, I didn't know what we were asking for," McCrary said from Seattle yesterday. "Maybe those figures are based on salary cap numbers or maybe he is looking into the future. I have told my agent that I don't want to get involved in the negotiations until they are close. I hired him because I thought he was one of the best and I'll support him in his decisions.

"The only thing I have told him is to be fair," McCrary said. "If the top guys in this league are making $50,000, then that's what I want to make. If it's $100,000, I want to make the same amount. I'm not saying I'm the greatest or the best, but I do think I'm considered in the top group."

Newsome said McCrary's health hasn't been a factor in the negotiations even though he had major knee surgery at the beginning of the year and has a history of knee problems.

"He is doing very well in rehab," Newsome said. "Mike is a quick healer and he is ahead of schedule."

Blackshear, in his seventh season, has been the team's most durable player since the team moved to Baltimore three years ago. Blackshear has never missed a starting assignment or practice because of injury, and has missed only one game (in 1993, his rookie season). He is vastly underrated and one of the most physical guards in the league.

After left tackle Jonathan Ogden, he has been the offensive line's most consistent performer and started to emerge as a team leader by the end of last season.

The average salary for a starting guard in the league is about $3 million, so Blackshear and the Ravens are basically in the same market. Blackshear seems excited to play for first-year coach Brian Billick.

"He has a lot of energy," Blackshear said. "I like the way practices are up-tempo. He teaches but at the same time he doesn't mind jumping on guys telling them what they need to do. Offensively, I feel as though we're going to be pretty good this season.

"I like it here in Baltimore, and I think we're close to getting a deal done."

Said Newsome: "The team had a lot of progress with Jeff's agent. We like Jeff and I've talked to Brian about him, and Brian was happy with what he saw in him through the off-season and minicamp."

Blackshear's agent, Ted Marchibroda Jr., was cautiously optimistic about getting a deal done. He is aware of the Browns/Ravens history in failing to re-sign offensive linemen, especially center Wally Williams after the 1998 season.

"Jeff wants to remain a Raven, he is happy and has been loyal to the organization," Marchibroda said. "But you never know what may happen. They may have been close with Wally and Orlando, too, but it didn't get done. We'll see."

Pub Date: 5/28/99

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