Savage offered job with Eagles

Ravens' top scout might still consider Bears' GM position

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

While Ravens owner Art Modell unwillingly opened the door to one front office member, he may be on the brink of losing another.

Phil Savage, the Ravens' director of college scouting, was offered the Philadelphia Eagles' pro personnel director's job last night, a league source said.

The source also confirmed a report in today's Philadelphia Daily News that Savage is weighing the decision as he is being interviewed in New York for the more lucrative general manager's job with the Chicago Bears. Savage, 36, could not be reached to comment last night.

The job offer came during the same day that Modell granted formal permission to the Bears to talk to Savage and a surprised James Harris, the Ravens' pro personnel director. Modell originally had declared Harris off-limits to Chicago, but lifted his objection in accordance with league rules.

When asked about Savage, Modell said he would discuss the situation with him today.

"I am sure he will ask my opinion and I will give it to him," Modell said. "He knows that I will give him an honest recommendation."

Savage became the team's top choice when Green Bay's director of college scouting, John Dorsey, agreed to a contract extension with the Packers rather than jump to the Eagles. According to the Daily News, the Eagles chose Savage over the Miami Dolphins' director of pro personnel, Tom Heckert Jr., and the Tennessee Titans' director of player personnel, Rich Snead.

Now, Savage must choose between a definite promotion with the Eagles and the more appealing possibility with the Bears. He was one of three candidates interviewing this week with the Bears' New York-based search firm of Russell Reynolds Associates, Inc.

Chicago's top candidate reportedly is Tom Modrak, the recently ousted director of football operations in Philadelphia who met with the search committee yesterday. Modrak, an NFL front office veteran covering three decades, can deliver experience while Savage brings a long-term investment.

As Ozzie Newsome's right-hand man on draft day, Savage has become a hot commodity in personnel circles. His efficient yet tireless evaluation of talent helped the Ravens produce four Pro Bowl performers and 11 Super Bowl starters in the team's first five drafts here.

A spokeswoman for the search firm indicated that no one would be available to comment during the interview process.

Before learning about the possible departure of Savage, the Ravens were abuzz with the unexpected decision concerning Harris.

On Friday, Modell tried to escape a raid on his management team by saying he would not allow the Bears to interview Harris or Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel. But according to league policy, the Ravens could not block Harris from pursuing that vacancy since it would be a clear-cut promotion.

"We granted the Bears permission to talk to both Phil and James - reluctantly," Modell said. "I have to do it because of the rules, regrettably by both counts. They're wonderful, wonderful people and I would hate like the devil to lose them."

But Modell refused to back off his stance on Newsome, saying those same rules favor him on this account. The Chicago Tribune reported Thursday that the Bears' search firm "has either contacted or made inquiries" about Newsome.

Modell, however, said the league office informed him that the Bears' general manager position is considered a lateral move for Newsome despite the additional power in Chicago to hire and fire a coach. So, he doesn't see any ground for the Bears to pry away Newsome, who received a three-year contract extension during last season.

"He's the No. 1 football man in our organization," Modell said. "He's not going anywhere unless he becomes an owner.

"Ozzie is priceless. They can't get Ozzie. Nobody will be granted permission to talk to Ozzie Newsome. That is my right."

Harris, 53, said he did not know when he would meet with the Bears' search team. A member of the Ravens' front office for the past four years, Harris is known for a subtle approach and a keen eye of talent in the pro ranks.

"I'm flattered that they're interested in interviewing me," Harris said. "Right now, I'm still focused on this season coming up with the Ravens."

The Ravens seem to be prepared for the worst. Still, they are going along with league rules.

"We may lose both, but that's how the game is played. I have mixed emotions," Modell said. "I don't have the right morally or ethically to stand in their way. I wish them well. But if they don't get those jobs, we will welcome them back with open arms."

NOTES: The Ravens are close to re-signing free agent Cornell Brown, a backup linebacker primarily regarded as a run-stopper. An agreement could be reached by tomorrow. ... The Tennessee Titans, who lost fullback Lorenzo Neal to the Cincinnati Bengals, have had discussions with Tony Agnone, the representative for Sam Gash. The Ravens are still interested in retaining Gash, and coach Brian Billick spoke with him last week. "Right now, we're optimistic that we should be able to make things work to bring Sam back here," Billick said.

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