Ravens set to bring on Searcy

Free-agent tackle released by Jaguars said to be near deal

Mitchell, Swayne on way out

Searcy would team with Ogden to form formidable line duo

March 12, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The Ravens are "very close" to signing free-agent right tackle Leon Searcy, a league source said last night.

The Super Bowl champions could finalize a deal with Searcy early this week, the source added. Searcy, a salary-cap casualty with the Jacksonville Jaguars, would team with left tackle Jonathan Ogden to give the Ravens one of the premier tandems in the league.

Ravens coach Brian Billick could not be reached for comment last night, and vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome was at the league's competition committee meetings in Naples, Fla.

The addition of Searcy could mean the end of two Ravens' careers, center Jeff Mitchell and right tackle Harry Swayne.

Mitchell, a three-year starter with the Ravens, is meeting with the Carolina Panthers today, and his agent, Ed Cunningham, has already had serious contract negotiations with the Panthers. Under the current salary cap, the Ravens would be hard-pressed to sign both Searcy and Mitchell.

Mitchell, a fifth-round pick by the Ravens in 1997, showed improvement every season with the team. In the first half of last season he was hampered by knee and ankle injuries, which sidelined him for 13 quarters.

Mike Flynn replaced Mitchell, moving from his right guard spot. Flynn, a first-year starter last season, may be asked to move to center.

Swayne, who collected his third Super Bowl ring, started 13 regular-season games and all four postseason games last season. But the 14-year veteran is scheduled to make $2 million next season, and has a cap figure of $4.5 million. If they cut him, the Ravens will have to eat a $750,000 incentive clause he activated by playing more than 60 percent of the team's offensive snaps.

Searcy, 31, was voted to his first Pro Bowl in 1999. Last year, the 6-foot-4, 320-pound veteran did not play a down because of a torn quadriceps above his right knee. He suffered the injury in the first padded practice of last year's camp with the Jaguars.

But durability was never a concern for Searcy in the past. Before last season, he started 111 of 112 games from 1993 to 1998 with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville.

Known for his toughness, Searcy protected quarterback Mark Brunell's blind side for the Jaguars. Jacksonville, though, decided to release Searcy before having to pay him a $6 million roster bonus.

"At one time, I was considered the best right tackle in the league," Searcy said during his Wednesday visit with the Ravens. "I'm just looking forward to reclaiming my throne."

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