Agent, Taylor seek to step up

Other contract deals may up Ravens ante

July 15, 2000|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Escalators, yes. Voidable years, no.

That appears to be the starting point of Steve Weinberg's contract negotiations with the Ravens for wide receiver Travis Taylor, the 10th pick in the NFL draft.

Citing the incentive-filled contracts of wide receiver Peter Warrick and quarterback Chad Pennington, Weinberg was shooting for the moon yesterday after his first bargaining session with Ravens negotiator Pat Moriarty in almost two weeks.

Asked which contracts had caught his attention, the Dallas agent pointed to Warrick's six-year, $36 million deal with the Cincinnati Bengals, and Pennington's five-year deal that could max out at $23 million with the New York Jets.

Warrick was the fourth pick in April's draft; Pennington the 18th.

"If the 18th pick can make $23 million and the fourth pick can make almost $37 [million], I would say Travis should be between those two," Weinberg said.

"He should have a chance to make $30 million."

Warrick not only has escalators that boost the total value of the package, but a voidable seventh year as well.

Weinberg wants escalators, but not voidables, which cancel a portion of the contract, usually in a performance clause.

Pie in the sky or a hard-line stance?

Only Weinberg knows for sure.

On a day when Moriarty returned to his office to begin the final negotiating countdown to training camp, there was good news for the Ravens.

The team reached an agreement in principle with Canadian-born guard Richard Mercier, a fifth-round pick from the University of Miami, on a three-year contract. With most of the fifth round already slotted, Mercier is expected to get a $106,000 signing bonus in a deal worth $932,000.

Then there was an apparent thaw in negotiations with defensive tackle Tony Siragusa, who is seeking to upgrade the $1.5 million final year of his four-year contract.

Terry Lavenstein, one of two agents representing Siragusa, said a morning phone call to vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome was both encouraging and productive.

"I firmly believe they have a genuine wish to keep Goose here," Lavenstein said. "I have every reason to believe it will get done before training camp. We're not threatening holdouts or anything. We're beyond that."

Siragusa has already missed a mandatory minicamp, for which he was fined $2,000, and asked to be traded. Yesterday's breakthrough comes as the Ravens are considering whether to make a run at free-agent defensive tackles Eric Swann or Gilbert Brown.

Getting their high draft picks signed in time for the opening of training camp in nine days is another matter for the Ravens. Of the team's six picks, the three unsigned players come off the top - first-rounders Jamal Lewis and Taylor, and third-round quarterback Chris Redman.

The issue of escalators figures to play prominently in Taylor's negotiations.

Without them, Pennington's deal is worth $6.359 million. But in his $16 million incentive package, he gets an additional $1.969 million in 2003 if he participates in 35 percent of the offensive snaps any of his first three seasons. Unless he is a complete bust, it's a very reachable incentive.

But it's unlikely Weinberg will be able to use Pennington's deal in negotiations, primarily because quarterbacks almost always break the slotting rules and get more money.

Like it or not, reality for Taylor is the contract signed by Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, who got a $5.5 million signing bonus on a five-year, $7.86 million deal as the ninth pick in the draft. Escalators could push his deal into the $10 million range.

Weinberg wouldn't mind whether Lewis reached terms with the Ravens before Taylor, either.

"If Jamal's deal is done, it will help us," Weinberg said. "But that's not everything we're looking at. We're also looking at the two receivers at [Nos.] 4 and 8."

Taylor was the third receiver taken in the first round behind Warrick and Plaxico Burress, the eighth pick. Burress' talks with the Pittsburgh Steelers didn't begin in earnest until this week, and it's possible he'll miss a day or two of camp.

"I've laid out a long-term, multiyear proposal for Travis that would keep him with the Baltimore Ravens for a long, long time," Weinberg said.

Moriarty declined to address the negotiations specifically, saying only, "We'll continue to talk and keep plugging at it."

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