Ismail cool to `final' offer

Ravens receiver balks at `backloaded' deal for 4 years, $8 million

March 17, 2000|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Qadry Ismail hopes the Ravens' final offer isn't quite as final as one of Regis Philbin's final answers.

According to the wide receiver's agent, Tony Agnone, Ismail was given what the Ravens said was their final offer this week -- a four-year, $8 million deal with a $1.3 million signing bonus.

Agnone said the problem was the way the deal was structured, with $5 million of it in the final two years. He was happy with the $8 million total package, but prefers more upfront money, with a $2 million signing bonus.

The Ravens also offered a one-year deal in the $800,000 range, while Ismail would want a salary in the $1.3 million range for a one-year deal.

Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' director of player personnel, said the team wants to re-sign Ismail and confirmed it has offered the player two deals. Newsome said he didn't want to get into the numbers but that the ones Agnone mentioned "sound about right."

Newsome added: "We thought that toward the end of last year, he became a very productive player, and we'd like to have him back."

Ismail, who didn't catch a pass in the 1997 and 1998 seasons with Miami and New Orleans, was one of coach Brian Billick's "scrapheap" guys playing for the then veteran minimum of $400,000 last year. He had a breakout year and led the team with 68 passes.

Ismail, an unrestricted free agent, hasn't visited any other teams, because he wants to stay with the Ravens. He is spending the winter at his home in Boca Raton, Fla., where his wife gave birth their third child, Qadir, on Feb. 17.

"I'm not a greedy person, and I've been very diligent with my finances," Ismail said from his home. "But I just want to be treated like a professional. The way it's structured, it doesn't seem like a fair deal. If you want to put some numbers on the table, look at what I did last year."

Backloaded deals often aren't worth the paper they're written on, because most NFL deals aren't guaranteed, and the team has the option of cutting the player.

For example, guard Jeff Blackshear thought he'd signed an $18.7 million deal last year with the Ravens but was cut after one season.

Agnone said he will now recommend that his client visit some other teams -- he said Cleveland and Kansas City have shown interest. And Ismail said he'll likely follow his agent's advice.

Ismail said he's puzzled by the team's stance, because he was given the impression the team no longer had any debt problems after of the infusion of cash from new minority owner Stephen Bisciotti, who paid $275 million for 49 percent of the team and has the option of buying the other 51 percent in four years for a total of $600 million.

There's a chance the Ravens could go in a different direction if the stalemate with Ismail isn't broken. Newsome said he isn't currently talking to other wide receivers who are unrestricted free agents but noted, "There are some other receivers out there."

He mentioned Chicago's Bobby Engram, who caught 88 passes last year, as an example.

There's also the chance that Bill Parcells, the coach of the New York Jets, could re-open the Keyshawn Johnson talks, although Newsome said four times that "the status hasn't changed."

There's even been speculation the Ravens could trade for disgruntled Carl Pickens of Cincinnati, but Newsome said he hasn't had any talks with Bengals president Mike Brown about Pickens, though, he added: "I have to be prepared for anything whenever it presents itself."

There's also the possibility the Ravens will take a wide receiver with one of their first-round picks in the draft, although the stock of Michigan's Plaxico Burress, who has been widely speculated to be the Ravens' pick with the fifth pick, may have dropped this week when his workout received mixed reviews.

There seems to be no consensus around the league on the fifth-best player, so the Ravens could come up with a surprise choice if they don't trade down.

"At this point last year, who thought Edgerrin James was going to be the fourth pick?" Newsome said. "At the end of the year, didn't he deserve to be the fourth pick? It's early. It's still early. But somebody's got to be drafted a five. If we're there, we'll be prepared to draft. The value of the fifth pick is what it is. We're still collecting our information."

It was "Super Thursday" for college workouts yesterday, when the three most touted players in the draft -- Penn State's LaVar Arrington and Courtney Brown, and Florida State's Peter Warrick -- had their private workouts.

Newsome said the Ravens had scouts at both workouts, but the odds are all three will be gone before the Ravens make the fifth pick.

NOTES: The Ravens announced that defensive backs Robert Bailey and James Trapp have signed two-year deals. They've also reached a two-year agreement with defensive back Corey Harris, but he hasn't signed. The Redskins hired Ravens video assistant Rob Porteus to head their video department after Washington owner Dan Snyder fired two of the team's video staff. The Redskins followed protocol and asked for permission to talk to Porteus, and Newsome called it a "nice promotion." The Redskins annoyed the Ravens last year by hiring marketing executive David Cope without asking permission to talk to him.

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