Ravens set their sights on Dilfer

Team wants free-agent QB to become Banks' backup

March 02, 2000|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

The Ravens' search for a backup quarterback has led them to Trent Dilfer, who went from Pro Bowl to gangplank in two years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Dilfer, a former No. 1 draft pick who was allowed to become a free agent this year, arrived in Baltimore last night to discuss the possibility of becoming Tony Banks' backup.

"Trent has some attraction to us, and we have some attraction to him," said Ozzie Newsome, the team's vice president of player personnel, after meeting with another free agent, nickel back Robert Bailey. "We want to see whether this is a match."

The key issue is how comfortable Dilfer would be playing behind Banks, who went 6-4 down the stretch as the Ravens' starter to earn a four-year, $18.6 million contract extension.

Indications are that Dilfer is more than willing. Of the seven teams that have contacted him, Dilfer's three front-runners appear to be the Ravens, Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.

It's possible Baltimore may even be his top choice, in part because of the offensive influence of coach Brian Billick.

The sixth pick in the 1994 draft, Dilfer had started 70 consecutive games for the Bucs when he was benched last season after a 3-3 start. He reclaimed the job two weeks later -- after Eric Zeier was hurt -- and won his next four starts.

But in a 16-3 win over Seattle, Dilfer broke his collarbone and was replaced by rookie Shaun King, who went 5-2 and quarterbacked Tampa Bay to within a whisker of the Super Bowl.

Bucs coach Tony Dungy then declared King his quarterback and the team declined an option to extend Dilfer's contract, rendering him a free agent.

In 10 starts last year, Dilfer threw for 1,619 yards, 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a passer rating of 75.8. He is 38-38 in six NFL seasons as a starter. In 1997, he became the first Bucs quarterback to go to the Pro Bowl.

Dilfer, who turns 28 this month, was unavailable to comment.

Bailey, meanwhile, toured the team's Owings Mills facility and will get a physical today. The 5-foot-9, 10-year veteran played the past three seasons with the Detroit Lions. Bailey, 31, has also played with the Los Angeles Rams, Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys, where he picked up a Super Bowl ring in the 1995 season.

According to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, Bailey will decide between the Ravens, Lions and New England Patriots.

"He's very close to [Ravens cornerback] Duane Starks, who's also my client," Rosenhaus said. "They're great friends and it'd be a great fit. Robert's one of the best nickel cornerbacks in football."

Newsome said the Ravens had not yet made an offer but suggested Baltimore would provide Bailey's best opportunity.

"Even though we have Duane and Chris [McAlister], we play the best 11 players, as we proved with [former starting cornerback] DeRon Jenkins last year," Newsome said. "We've got one of the best run defenses in the league, so 60 to 65 percent of the time we play with three corners."

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