The Ravens' mind-set officially switched from Super Bowl celebration to off-season negotiation yesterday, compliments of Jamie Shaper's agent.
Tony Agnone, who represents the Ravens' free-agent starting linebacker, caused a slight ripple at the Owings Mills training complex when he questioned the team's recent silence. Shocked that he hasn't heard from the Ravens this month, Agnone expressed some pessimism on Sharper returning to the Super Bowl champions.
"With them not responding, you normally know what the team is saying," Agnone said. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out.
"He'd like to stay. He'd like to be with that linebacking crew for eight or nine years. I don't see where that's going to be accomplished."
Sharper, the Ravens' third-leading tackler in the regular season, is one of 14 Ravens who became unrestricted free agents this off-season. Agnone also represents free-agent starting fullback Sam Gash.
The Ravens have until March 2 before other clubs can contact any of those players.
When told of Agnone's disappointment, Ravens coach Brian Billick countered with some heated emotion himself. Coincidentally, Billick said he was in the process of waiting for Agnone to return his phone call on an unrelated matter.
"We made it very clear in December that everybody would be contacted to avoid this very thing," Billick said. "The last few weeks, we've been a tad busy. It's our intention to continue our conversations with everybody."
According to the Ravens, they have reiterated for the past three months that negotiations have to be initiated by the agents.
"Our conversations with Tony have been that we would welcome negotiations at any point and we will accept a proposal from him at any time that he wishes to send us one," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel. "That goes along with the other 13 unrestricted free agents.
"That's what we said back in November and we're sticking to it."
Sharper, a restricted free agent last season, signed a one-year tendered contract worth $1.027 million while publicly asking for a long-term deal before the season. The four-year starter subsequently had a career season with six forced fumbles, two interceptions and two sacks and could be a tough fit under the Ravens' salary cap.
Agnone, though, would prefer to first discuss Sharper with the team before randomly swapping proposals.
"If that's what they want me to do, I'll oblige," said Agnone, a Baltimore-based agent. "I'll be calling [Ravens chief negotiator] Pat Moriarty right away then."
The Ravens' other free-agent starter on their record-setting defense is strong safety Kim Herring. His agent, Neil Cornrich, declined to talk about any possible negotiations yesterday as a "courtesy" to the Ravens.
"Kim is very happy with Baltimore," Cornrich said. "We're optimistic something will happen."
The Ravens also aren't interested in placing a franchise or transition player tag on any of their free agents.
Those tags basically allow teams to keep unrestricted free agents with one-year tendered contracts that are an average of the top salaries at their position. The deadline to designate franchise and transition players is Feb. 22.
"At this point in time, we do not plan to use them," Newsome said.
Last week, Newsome and Billick met with owner Art Modell and team president David Modell to formalize their free-agent strategies. The coaching staff, which had the past two weeks off, will provide its assessment of players off of watching film this week.
Still, the Ravens don't proclaim to have all the answers yet.
"We've prioritized the best we can," Billick said. "It really is a matter of wait and see how the market is going to develop. Again, it's hard to explain to people how much of a puzzle this is.
"To put the pieces together in a coherent way, you really can't do it until March 2. You can anticipate and you can project, but you really don't have an idea what this market is going to be until it actually starts."
NOTES: The Ravens are negotiating their radio and preseason non-network television broadcasting rights. Infinity radio broadcasting and WJZ-TV carried those games this past season, but both deals have expired. ... The night after the Ravens' Super Bowl victory, Billick received a congratulatory phone call at home from President Bush. The Ravens have received an invitation to the White House, with the team looking at a possible April visit.