Grbac's agent, Ravens huddle

no completion

QB's options dwindle with Seattle out of mix

B. Johnson `interested'

March 04, 2001|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Barring a collapse of negotiations, the Ravens are in a fortuitous position to secure one of the two most prominent quarterbacks in this year's free-agent market.

They arrived at that position when the Seattle Seahawks opted for backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in a trade over Pro Bowl selection Elvis Grbac in free agency Thursday night.

Whatever leverage Grbac had in his negotiations with the Ravens was gone that quickly; Seattle was his other viable option.

So, it was no surprise that yesterday, one day after Grbac introduced himself to Ravens coach Brian Billick, his St. Louis agent requested a chance to press the issue with a visit to Baltimore.

Jim Steiner, the agent, failed to close the deal, though, in a long day of negotiations with Pat Moriarty, the Ravens' director of football administration.

That left the door open for Brad Johnson, the nine-year veteran who has more suitors than Grbac.

Johnson, who spent the past two seasons with the Washington Redskins, had visits to the Cincinnati Bengals (tonight) and the Kansas City Chiefs (Wednesday) on his itinerary, and strong interest from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the offing.

Nevertheless, the Super Bowl champion Ravens remain a titillating possibility.

"We're still definitely interested in Baltimore," said Phil Williams, Johnson's Atlanta-based agent. "We hope they don't do anything quickly because our time frame ... we're just trying to be cautious and make sure we do things in the best way possible.

"Baltimore is very much on our minds."

With newfound leverage, the Ravens appear intent on getting a quarterback at their price - presumably for something less than the $6 million-to-$8 million a year deal Grbac and Johnson are seeking.

The Ravens have made both quarterbacks the same offer, and neither one is jumping.

Is the first one to jump the winner?

"Not necessarily," said Ozzie Newsome, the team's vice president of player personnel, who attended the regular-season finale of Maryland's basketball team yesterday.

"I don't have a timetable. Quarterbacks are our first priority. All we want to do is get a Raven deal."

Of the teams looking to sign front-line quarterbacks this off-season, only the Buccaneers - and possibly the Miami Dolphins - can offer as attractive a situation as the Ravens. Subtracting Seattle from the mix didn't hurt that perspective.

"With every deal, it changes the perspective of the agent and team," Billick said. "Whether it's an advantage or a disadvantage is hard to say. It clearly removes a player."

Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren surrendered a third-round draft pick and swapped first-round positions (their 10th for the 17th) to get Hasselbeck from the Green Bay Packers. Holmgren reportedly didn't want to pay Grbac a salary worth $6 million to $8 million annually.

Grbac is scheduled to visit the Bengals today.

Billick said he'd be happy with Grbac or Johnson.

"Both quarterbacks, we feel, would be a significant signing for us," he said. "We've gone through our evaluations, and we're very comfortable with both quarterbacks."

Suddenly, the Ravens are looking at a win-win situation. They even appear to be making headway on retaining free-agent linebacker Jamie Sharper. Billick is impressed at the proposal of Sharper's agent, Tony Agnone.

"Tony has been very creative," he said. "We're looking at it. Give him a lot of credit. He understands our [salary cap] situation. Both sides seem to be motivated to get it done."

It is a promising start to the off-season for the world champs.

NOTES: The Ravens have tendered all their restricted and exclusive free agents. It's believed they've tendered two restricted free agents - guard Mike Flynn and defensive tackle Lional Dalton - at the first-round compensation number of $1.115 million. ... Defensive tackle Tony Siragusa's hometown of Kenilworth, N.J., will hold a parade today in his honor. He borrowed the Super Bowl trophy for the occasion. Siragusa, playing himself, recently taped an episode of Arli$$, the HBO series about a sports agent, to be aired later. ... Billick will speak to the league's public relations people at their annual meeting tomorrow.

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