Ravens aren't rushing into free agency

They have plan, not list, as NFL store opens today

Pro Football

June 01, 2000|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

When the NFL's second wave of free agency splashes down today, the Ravens will assume a low profile. According to Ozzie Newsome, there will be no cuts or signings of any veteran players, at least through the weekend.

June 1 is the date when NFL teams slice the fat off the financial budget in order to sign draft choices and squeeze under the league's $62 million salary cap.

The Ravens, however, were preparing for this day seven months ago.

"We had a plan in place in November on how we'd be able to get all our draft picks signed,'` Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel, said yesterday. "We knew we'd have two picks in the first round then.'`

That plan features restructured contracts. Already this off-season, the Ravens have reworked the contracts of defensive end Michael McCrary, safety Rod Woodson, offensive tackle Harry Swayne and wide receiver Jermaine Lewis.

Still, they have only $1.168 million of cap space left and a net allocation of $4.3558 million in the rookie pool mandated by the league.

The key to the Ravens' cap plans is Pro Bowl tackle Jonathan Ogden, who carries a cap number of $5.321 million in 2000. Equally significant, he is entering the fifth year of a seven-year contract that can be voided after this season.

If the Ravens can restructure - and extend - Ogden's contract, they could have room to get first-rounders Jamal Lewis, Travis Taylor and third-round pick Chris Redman signed.

Toward that end, Pat Moriarty, the team's vice president of administration, was in Los Angeles yesterday meeting with Marvin Demoff, Ogden's agent.

As for the June 1 free agents, the Ravens could become active participants, but only on their terms.

"Right player, right price," Newsome said of the scenario for signing a June free agent. "We're always looking to upgrade the roster."

Among the players expected to become available after today are cornerback Deion Sanders of the Dallas Cowboys, defensive tackle Eric Swann of the Arizona Cardinals, quarterback Randall Cunningham of the Minnesota Vikings and guard Kevin Donnalley of the Miami Dolphins.

The Ravens are interested in reserve linebackers and defensive linemen. Expectations are limited.

"I don't think a team is sitting here thinking they're going to get a key player that puts them over the top on June 1,'` said Ravens coach Brian Billick. "[But] they'll be able to pick up some good role players.'`

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