Monday clue seen on Ravens' move

Mitchell, Sharper, Searcy still in mix

March 10, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The Ravens expect to ride their second wave in the free-agent pool next week.

But who will make the big splash?

While the Super Bowl champions appear to have focused their negotiations on right tackle Leon Searcy, linebacker Jamie Sharper and center Jeff Mitchell, they have kept their top priority under a veil of secrecy.

"I think by Monday, you're apt to see some moves that will take us further along the time continuum here as to what's going to get done," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

"I'm not going to tell you if it's Jamie, if it's Jeff or if it's another free agent out there. It'll become fully apparent probably by Monday what our intentions are next. Then we'll go on from there."

Realistically, the chances are slim that the Ravens have enough salary-cap room to sign both Searcy and Mitchell for their offensive line. They'll probably have to choose between Searcy, a 31-year-old Pro Bowl tackle in 1999, or Mitchell, a 27-year-old rising center.

Searcy, a salary-cap cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars, has named the Ravens as his first choice, yet agent Drew Rosenhaus declined to comment on the situation yesterday.

Mitchell, who has started 30 games the past two seasons for the Ravens, visited the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday and will meet with the Carolina Panthers on Monday.

The Panthers, who need a center with Frank Garcia being a free agent, could make a hard run at Mitchell. He has also drawn interest from the Cincinnati Bengals and Detroit Lions.

Mitchell's agent, Ed Cunningham, has repeatedly talked with the Ravens and last discussed numbers with them Thursday night.

"If all things were equal, Baltimore would be his first choice," Cunningham said. "But I don't think they're going to be equal."

Sharper, a four-year starter with the Ravens, took a cross-country trip to Seattle on Wednesday and reportedly received an offer from the Seahawks. His agent, Tony Agnone, has exchanged several proposals with the Ravens and will meet with the team this weekend.

"Obviously, he wants to come back," Agnone said. "I've been told that Jamie is a priority."

Billick applauded Agnone's creative proposals to keep Sharper with the Ravens.

"I give a lot of credit to Tony," Billick said. "He's working very hard to try to make this happen."

The Ravens have admittedly taken a deliberate approach to free agency. Billick called it a "buyer's market" since there's an overflow of talent available and not many teams able to spend under a tight salary cap.

That's why he put the initiative to reach deals back on the agents' shoulders.

"I think you're seeing a few agents who aren't sizing up the market very well," Billick said. "If they want to get someone someplace, they'd better be a little more proactive."

NOTES: Ravens punter Kyle Richardson, a restricted free agent, canceled his visit to Kansas City. The Chiefs signed free-agent punter Dan Stryzinski yesterday. ... The Ravens' public relations staff was named one of three finalists for the Pete Rozelle Award, along with those of the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Pro Football Writers of America will name the winner in May.

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