Ravens, McCrary play game of tag

Team rejects proposal from agent to concede franchise designation

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

Negotiations for a contract extension between Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary and the team broke off after a five-hour meeting yesterday, and team officials rejected McCrary's agent's suggestion about forfeiting the right to designate him the franchise player for the 2000 season.

McCrary, named to the AFC Pro Bowl team last season, has one year left on his contract but has stated that he would hit the free-agent market if a new contract was not agreed on by Sept 12., the date of the team's season opener against St. Louis. But McCrary's agent, Michael George, said he would negotiate with the team during the season if the team would not designate McCrary the franchise player. If McCrary received the tag, he would have to play for the Ravens and earn the average salary of the top five defensive ends in the league.

The designation might cost him anywhere between $7 to $8 million in up-front money.

"We're not anywhere close to what is value market or sub-value market for this player," said George. "We can't do the deal we were working on, but we're open-minded. We will continue to negotiate if they concede the franchise tag. That way we can work on a market deal."

The Ravens declined the offer.

"We will not give up the right we have collectively bargained for," said David Modell, the team's president, after two full days of negotiations. "We like Michael very much and if we didn't, we wouldn't invest this kind of time or money. We're anxious to see him back on the field, if not this weekend, in the near future."

Neither Modell nor Pat Moriarty, the team's vice president of administration, was as pessimistic as George, who flew out of town yesterday afternoon. George said the lines of communication are still open.

"We've made progress," said Modell, who also met with George yesterday. "This is a negotiating process and the player has said we have until Sept. 12. It looks to me like we're on schedule."

One of the major issues is the amount of the signing bonus. According to a source, McCrary wants $13 million. The Ravens have offered $11 million but would go as high as $12 million, the same amount recently received by New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan.

Strahan's package also averaged $8 million for the next four years. According to a source close to McCrary, the total value of McCrary's package is less than Strahan's. McCrary had not talked to his agent by early yesterday evening and declined to comment last night. Most of the talks had been centered around a five- or six-year deal.

McCrary, 29, was second on the team in tackles last season with 102, behind only middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who had 154. McCrary led the team in sacks with 14.5, which was second-best in the AFC. He has 35 sacks over the past 38 games.

McCrary is not expected to play in tonight's game against the Carolina Panthers. He has fully recovered from off-season knee surgery, but the Ravens have been cautious with his practice and playing time.

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