Agent: Grbac, Ravens close

Deal could be reached `in 24 hours,' but team still eyeing B. Johnson


March 05, 2001|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

The Ravens' search for a new quarterback may yet lead to favorite Brad Johnson, but Elvis Grbac remained front and center yesterday.

Emerging from two days of negotiations in Baltimore, Grbac's agent said a deal with the Ravens could be completed as early as today.

"I think it's going to be done in the next 24 hours," St. Louis-based agent Jim Steiner said yesterday.

The Ravens' whirlwind romance with Grbac may not be concluded that quickly, however. With Steiner and Grbac moving on to Cincinnati to meet with the Bengals, the Ravens are expected to intensify talks with Johnson's representative, Phil Williams.

Johnson and Grbac have both received offers from the Ravens reportedly in the range of four years and $22 million. Both quarterbacks are believed to be seeking deals worth more than $6 million a year.

Johnson has at least one other offer, a proposal for four years and approximately $20 million from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

But, it was Steiner who sounded closer to striking a deal yesterday.

"I think Elvis had a good visit," he said. "Obviously, they're world champions, and that is a heavy, heavy, heavy consideration.

"I came there initially to see if we could get something done. We just fell short. We just couldn't close it. [But] the talks were encouraging."

On the heels of Grbac's visit with coach Brian Billick last week, Steiner arrived for a lengthy negotiating session Saturday with Pat Moriarty, the Ravens' chief negotiator.

Those talks continued yesterday, but ended about midday without a deal, when Steiner left to join Grbac in Cincinnati to talk numbers with the Bengals.

Steiner insisted he did not have an agreement with the Ravens.

"I wouldn't do that to the Bengals," he said.

The Bengals can offer more money, but present a less-competitive situation. They are an NFL-leading $14.8 million under the salary cap, while the Ravens are only $2.2 million under.

Ravens officials were unavailable to comment.

Johnson, 32, and Grbac, 30, head the list of free-agent quarterbacks available this winter, a list that includes Trent Dilfer, who led the Ravens to the Super Bowl championship.

Grbac, who carried a prohibitive salary cap number of $16.9 million with the Kansas City Chiefs, was released last Thursday after he told the team he did not wish to return.

Thought to be leaning toward the Seattle Seahawks, Grbac told the Ravens they were his first priority when he visited Billick on Friday.

Grbac, an eight-year veteran out of Michigan, threw for career highs of 4,169 yards and 28 touchdowns last season for the 7-9 Chiefs. He had five 300-yard passing games, tied for third most in the NFL, and his 7.62 yards per attempt ranked fourth in the AFC.

The Ravens' interest level?

"I'd have to say extremely high," Steiner said. "I think the talks were productive and encouraging. I think I can read into the conversation. Nothing can replace a face-to-face meeting. Everything is positive."

Nevertheless, it's likely the Ravens will make another run at Johnson before reaching an agreement with Grbac. Suffering an injury and enduring a demotion one year after going to the Pro Bowl with the Washington Redskins, Johnson threw for 2,505 yards, 11 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 11 starts last season.

Johnson, who scratched a visit to Cincinnati today, is expected to visit Kansas City on Wednesday. He has no visit scheduled with the Bucs.

Both Billick, as offensive coordinator, and Bucs coach Tony Dungy, as defensive coordinator, were in Minnesota with Johnson.

Johnson's agent was expected to talk to the Bucs late last night.

"Right now, all the teams that are interested are viable possibilities," Williams said.

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