Richardson signs with Panthers

Ravens weigh match to hold on to punter

Pro Football

March 24, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The Ravens have a week to decide how much punter Kyle Richardson's leg is worth.

Richardson, a restricted free agent, signed an offer sheet for one year and $850,000 with the Carolina Panthers yesterday.

Under NFL rules, the Ravens can retain Richardson by matching the offer no later than next Friday. If they decline, the Panthers will acquire Richardson without owing the Ravens compensation.

The Ravens are noncommittal at this point.

"We have seven days to respond," Ravens president David Modell said. "My guess is we'll talk about it and decide until now and the 59th minute of the sixth day."

It's a difficult scenario for the Ravens to match the one-year offer, which breaks down to a base salary of $500,000 and a signing bonus of $350,000.

That means the entire $850,000 will have to be absorbed into the team's current salary cap. The Ravens are reportedly $1.2 million under the cap, while the Panthers are believed to be around $2 million under.

The Ravens had originally tendered Richardson a one-year, $512,000 contract, which is the lowest qualifying offer available for restricted free agents. Now, the team has to determine if its punter of three years is deserving of such a raise.

It was only last season when Richardson held out the first day of training camp to dispute a $5,000 pay cut from the previous year. He has since tried to work out a long-term deal, but the Ravens preferred to stick with their one-year tender.

"Kyle was hesitant to sign [Carolina's offer sheet] because he doesn't want to leave Baltimore," said Steve Weinberg, Richardson's agent. "It's something that the Ravens forced him into doing. But he's hoping that Baltimore steps up and matches it."

Carolina is looking for an upgrade to punter Ken Walter, a former Ravens ball boy. Walter had a 38.4-yard average, which was 30th in the NFL.

Richardson, 28, led the NFL for the second straight year with 35 punts inside the 20-yard line, but his 40.2-yard average ranked 22nd in the league. His best game last season occurred in the Super Bowl, where he averaged 43 yards on 10 kicks and placed four of them inside the 20.

"Our philosophy is right player, right price," Modell said. "We'll sit down and evaluate Kyle on that basis."

There is speculation that this move could be related to the situation of free-agent linebacker Jamie Sharper, who visited Carolina on Thursday. If the Ravens commit more cap room to Richardson, the Panthers may be thinking that it could squeeze the Ravens' spending on Sharper.

Panthers officials were traveling to the NFL meetings in Palm Desert, Calif., and could not be reached for comment yesterday.

NOTE: Another of Weinberg's clients, defensive end Keith Washington, has visited the Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills. But Weinberg said the Ravens have renewed their interest and delivered an offer yesterday to Washington.

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