Busy Ravens work both sides of ball

Webster agrees on contract

pursuit of Sharpe continues

Lineman: 3 years, $5 million

Free-agent tight end: Ravens still in the hunt

February 16, 2000|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Denver Broncos unrestricted free-agent tight end Shannon Sharpe said yesterday that he has a short list of two teams he might sign with, and Ravens defensive tackle Larry Webster chose to remain with his old one by agreeing to a three-year, $5 million deal.

Webster, 31, will receive a $1.5 million signing bonus, and his new contract, along with the four-year, $14 million deal agreed to by defensive end Rob Burnett on Saturday, guarantees the Ravens of having the entire line back from last year's defense that was No. 2 in the NFL.

Webster, an Elkton native and former standout at the University of Maryland, was unavailable to comment yesterday. But he is an integral part of the defense, finishing with 44 tackles last season and, more importantly, keeping blockers off middle linebacker Ray Lewis.

"Larry had a chance to possibly go to New Orleans, but this is his hometown, and he feels that the Ravens are an up-and-coming team with a chance at the playoffs," said Tony Paige, Webster's agent.

Sharpe, 31, spent yesterday morning touring the training facility and meeting with Ravens officials. He also took a physical and was to return to Atlanta by midday yesterday. Sharpe reportedly wants a contract that averages $3 million a season, the same as Indianapolis tight end Ken Dilger, who recently signed a five-year, $15 million deal with the Colts.

Around the league, Sharpe is considered a much better player than Dilger because of his ability to go deep. The Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets are also believed to have interest in Sharpe, a five-time AFC Pro Bowl pick. But Sharpe ruled them out yesterday.

"Our meeting was real upbeat, real positive," Sharpe said of the Ravens. "I'm just going back home and wait to see what happens. It's a two-team race."

He was alluding to the Broncos and Ravens, who have rolled out the proverbial red carpet for Sharpe by flying him in on a private plane with owner Art Modell on Monday evening. In six of the past seven seasons, Sharpe has had more than 60 receptions. He is appreciated by Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel, and coach Brian Billick, both former tight ends in the NFL.

But the question is this: Is Sharpe using the Ravens as a bargaining tool to get more money from the Broncos, who still might be strong enough to make a Super Bowl run next season?

"That's not what Shannon said in our time together," Newsome said. "All we can do is base our efforts on our conversations with Shannon.

"We had a very good meeting with him. Signing him would be similar to when we signed [Rod] Woodson. He [Sharpe] is a guy who is a proven player who knows what it takes to win and has won. He could fill a role, as Woodson has done for us, not only on the field as a tight end, but as a veteran leader in the locker room."

Ravens vice president of administration Pat Moriarty is flying to California today to meet with Marvin Demoff, the agent for Sharpe and quarterback Tony Banks, who is also an unrestricted free agent.

If the Ravens can't sign Sharpe, tight end will remain a priority, and the team has other options, including talks with Troy Drayton, Ben Coates, Andrew Glover and Jackie Harris.

Drayton visited the team Monday, and the Ravens are still trying to work out details on a visit from Glover.

NOTES: Ravens unrestricted free-agent cornerback DeRon Jenkins is expected to make a decision before next week on whether he will play for the San Diego Chargers. Jenkins is expected to command an average salary of at least $3 million a year on the open market. The Ravens might consider matching it. Washington unrestricted free agent Kipp Vickers, a reserve offensive lineman, is expected to visit this week.

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