Frustrated McCrary talks trade

Ravens DE leaves team, heads home to Phoenix

sides remain far apart

Agent: `trade mentioned'

Club: Pro Bowl player will not be dealt

August 29, 1999|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Ravens Pro Bowl defensive end Michael McCrary, frustrated with recent contract talks, left the team for his home in Phoenix last night and has asked club officials about a trade.

McCrary, in the final stages of rehabilitating his knee after off-season surgery, was not expected to play last night at PSINet Stadium against the Carolina Panthers in the Ravens' third preseason game, and he was not on the sideline. Contract extension talks between McCrary's agent, Michael George, and the Ravens broke off Friday afternoon after two days of negotiations.

Team officials said they weren't aware that McCrary had left for Phoenix.

"I don't know, I have not talked to his agent," said Ozzie Newsome, vice president of player personnel.

McCrary still has one year left on his contract, but is seeking a deal comparable to the one recently signed by New York Giants defensive end Mike Strahan, who received a four-year extension worth $32 million that included a $12 million signing bonus.

When asked if McCrary was willing to sit out the season, George said it was a possibility. McCrary referred all questions to his agent last night before heading to Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

"I don't know if he will sit out the year," George said early yesterday afternoon. "He could, but we'll keep talking to the Ravens. But once Mike makes up his mind, and everyone knows how he is, then he'll carry through on it.

"Yes, he could sit out a year like Sean Gilbert [who spurned the Washington Redskins and ended up with the Panthers]. He is disappointed with the negotiations and how they have been handled so far. Mac believes there has to be some degree of fairness and since there has been none, there is no point in staying."

According to a team official, the Ravens don't rate McCrary as high as Strahan, even though their statistics have been comparable over the past two seasons, especially in sacks, where Strahan has 29 and McCrary 23. Strahan had 299 tackles during the past five years, while McCrary had 275.

McCrary is 29, Strahan 27. The Ravens would like to sign McCrary to a deal similar to that recently signed by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Sinclair, who had two years left on his contract, but got a five-year deal worth an average of $5 million, including a $6 million signing bonus. Sinclair, 31, had 16.5 sacks last season, tops in the league. His three-year total of 41.5 is the highest in the NFL.

According to a team source, McCrary wants a $13 million signing bonus and the Ravens have offered $11 million, but are willing to climb to $12 million. A league source close to the negotiations, though, said the Ravens' package is $2 million under Strahan's and would pay McCrary $8 million less than Strahan in the first four years of the contract.

The impasse has prompted trade discussions, George said.

"We have mentioned the possibility of a trade in passing," George said of recent conversations with the Ravens. "This is nothing personal. Mike likes the team, the city, his coach Marvin Lewis and head coach Brian Billick. He wants to remain, but there is a disagreement with the company."

Newsome said the team would not consider trading McCrary.

"There have been no trade talks," Newsome said. "I have not attempted to trade him to anyone. We want Michael McCrary to be a Raven for the rest of his career."

Billick had little to say about the incident, saying he was only concerned about the players on the field for last night's game and that he would know more today.

McCrary's teammates had little reaction.

"I'm not his agent, not him and don't know what's going on," said middle linebacker Ray Lewis.

"I've always tried not to get into another player's business or affairs," said defensive tackle Tony Siragusa. "I wish he was here, but if he thinks it's best for him, then he has to do what he has to do."

George, who said his latest proposal to the Ravens was below the total value of Strahan's deal, said the Ravens' offer is below market value and McCrary would get more if he were allowed to enter free agency. The Ravens could designate him the team's franchise player after this season, which means McCrary would have to play for the Ravens in 2000 for the average salary of the top five players at his position. The designation might cost him $7 million to $8 million in up-front money.

"I know the Ravens' position will be that the Strahan agreement was arbitrarily a high deal," George said. "They'll also say they have collective rights to Mike and that he is more in line with Sinclair. But Strahan had one year left on his contract, and Sinclair has two. Sinclair is also 31, has diabetes and only wants to play two more years before he retires.

"I think we have been making all the concessions. Our last offer was well below what we really wanted to do and for six years, and they still said no. We proposed five, but then more money was taken off the table.

"This was starting to become distracting to Mike," George said. "That's why we wanted to do it now until waiting for the season to start and then free agency. I can honestly say that failure is not on our shoulders. We want a market deal. We'll talk, but the six-year proposal is now off the table. I'm not optimistic about a five-year deal either."

McCrary was second on the team in tackles last season with 102. He led the team in sacks with 14.5, second-best in the AFC, and has 35 sacks over the past 38 games.

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