4th down, week to go for Ravens, Sharper

Brass leaves huddle hopeful linebacker will stay, eager for decision

Pro Football

March 26, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The Ravens huddled for nearly four hours yesterday and laid down an informal deadline concerning their free-agent linebacker Jamie Sharper.

"We should have a resolution of this one way or another this week," owner Art Modell said. "We're going to try our best to negotiate a deal that we can live with and he can live with. Nothing has been decided, but we'll continue our discussions [today]."

After signing quarterback Elvis Grbac and right tackle Leon Searcy, the Ravens have had Sharper as their top free-agent priority for nearly two weeks. The Super Bowl champions haven't determined whether they'll extend another offer to Sharper but appear set to finalize their stance on the starting outside linebacker soon.

"I think he's entitled to a positive response as we are anxious to give it to him," Modell said. "I have never taken a back seat to signing people. He will be a very good man to have back.

"We're confident that we're going to sign Jamie Sharper. They may not be as confident, but we are."

Ravens officials are spending this week at Palm Desert, Calif., the site of the NFL meetings.

Yesterday's marathon team discussion with Modell, which touched on topics other than Sharper, included team president David Modell, vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome, chief negotiator Pat Moriarty and chief financial officer Luis Perez. Coach Brian Billick didn't attend because of a speaking engagement.

From the meeting, Modell said it's possible to sign Sharper as well as match the Carolina Panthers' offer on punter Kyle Richardson despite being a reported $1.2 million under the salary cap.

The Panthers signed Richardson to a one-year, $850,000 offer sheet on Friday, and the Ravens have one week to decide whether they'll match that offer and keep him. The Ravens, though, don't expect to make a final decision on whether to match the offer until today or tomorrow.

"They both could stay," Modell said. "Except for Jeff Mitchell and Kim Herring, it would really keep our team intact. That's the way you repeat."

Sharper's agent, Tony Agnone, said he hasn't heard from the Ravens this weekend.

Sharper, the team's third-leading tackler, has visited the Seattle Seahawks, the Miami Dolphins and the Panthers during free agency. Agnone also has talked with the New York Giants and the Chicago Bears.

"Hopefully, we're going to make a decision this week, too," Agnone said. "I haven't had any conversations with the Ravens until I talked to Ozzie [Thursday]. I would have no idea of what their position is."

Modell, though, said the meeting also gave him a chance to put the Ravens' off-season into perspective. While the Ravens want to continue their pursuits in free agency, they shouldn't forget about what they've accomplished so far.

"I am very confident about the outlook of this ballclub," Modell said. "We've upgraded ourselves remarkably with Grbac and Searcy. We want to try to keep everything else intact, especially on defense.

"The underlying attitude is that we want to repeat and how is the best we can do that with the restraints that we have. I came away from the meeting with a good feeling that we have all our heads screwed on right."

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