Ravens stop to catch breath

Team shifts attention from market to Sharper

March 15, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

After two high-profile strikes in free agency, the Ravens are in a holding pattern right now.

Fresh off signing quarterback Elvis Grbac and right tackle Leon Searcy, the Ravens appear ready to take a breather from a buyer-friendly market.

The Ravens have made weak-side linebacker Jamie Sharper their next priority but are in no rush to close a deal. Although both sides have reported progress in negotiations, Ravens coach Brian Billick said yesterday that no agreement is imminent.

"We're at a point where we need to fully size up the situation both for them and us to make sure we're moving forward in a prudent manner," Billick said. "In no way, shape or form do I want to intimate that we're not interested in doing this. The market is fluid, and we're having to adjust to it right now and see exactly what that is and how it affects us."

With teams basically cap-strapped league-wide, this year's crop of free agents have found trouble finding viable suitors.

Sharper's agent, Tony Agnone, has talked with the Seattle Seahawks and Miami Dolphins, but the Ravens have a favorable chance at holding on to their third-leading tackler.

In Seattle, Sharper would likely have to shift from his natural outside linebacker position to the middle. While he has received a reportedly "attractive" offer from the Seahawks, he has repeatedly maintained that the Ravens are his first choice.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins have said they are not interested in Sharper. Miami vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman indicated the team is looking to fill its strong-side linebacker slot through the draft instead.

Agnone was in Miami yesterday and could not be reached for comment. He has been one of the more assertive agents with the Ravens and had a 3 1/2 -hour negotiation session over the weekend with Pat Moriarty, the team's director of football administration.

"We're very appreciative of the work Tony has done," Billick said.

This wait-and-see approach doesn't solely involve Sharper.

To fit Searcy under their salary cap, the Ravens had to cut some veteran depth in Keith Washington, Robert Bailey and Billy Davis. But the tightness of the current cap precludes the Ravens from re-signing them quickly or easily.

"We do want to sign Billy Davis back, we do want to bring back Keith Washington and Robert Bailey," Billick said. "But what is that market? What are the numbers?"

In order to re-sign Sharper, the team will likely have to make more cuts.

The Ravens, though, have drawn more attention for their additions than their subtractions. In the 14th day of free agency, the Super Bowl champions have accomplished more than most teams by locking up Grbac and Searcy, two of the best free agents available at their positions.

But now, the Ravens want to wait.

"It has nothing to do with our desire to sign Jamie or get that done," Billick said. "It's a matter we need to pause, however briefly, to make sure where we're at."

NOTES: Ravens free-agent strong safety Kim Herring visited the St. Louis Rams yesterday. ... Contrary to a published report elsewhere, Ravens officials said Levon Kirkland, a free-agent inside linebacker who was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers, does not have a visit scheduled here.

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