Ravens retain top scout Savage

He rejects Eagles' bid for `sizable' bonus and expanded duties

May 16, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

As Phil Savage exited the Ravens' practice complex yesterday, the team's director of college scouting headed to catch a train to New York with some newfound peace of mind - and no stop in Philadelphia.

Savage pulled his name out of the running for the Philadelphia Eagles' pro personnel director's job yesterday by agreeing to a three-year contract extension with the Ravens. On Monday night, a league source told The Sun that Savage had been offered the No. 2 position in the Eagles' organization.

But after a 2 1/2 -hour, closed-door meeting with Ravens owner Art Modell yesterday, Savage couldn't pass on one final bit of advice.

"I told him to stay with the Ravens," a grinning Modell said, "and he accepted."

Savage, 36, whose original contract had one year remaining, was enticed to stay with expanded responsibilities and a bonus that one front office member described as "sizable." Other deciding factors may have been the Eagles' frequent turnover in the personnel department and some uncertainty over the range of power in the new position.

The move, meanwhile, allows one of the league's hottest front office assets to get groomed for a future general manager's job while enabling the Ravens to secure their scouting department.

The extension, though, didn't block his trip to New York, where Savage interviewed last night with a corporate search firm manning the Chicago Bears' general manager's opening. After taking a two-hour aptitude test, Savage was expected to take a late-night train back in order to watch today's start of the Ravens' three-day passing camp.

Chicago's top candidate reportedly is Tom Modrak, the recently fired director of football operations in Philadelphia. But there's a buzz surrounding Savage, who can only be pried away if tempted with a top executive job.

"You have to keep your options open, but I'm really excited about staying with the Ravens," Savage said. "Mr. Modell has treated me well beyond what I could have imagined in terms of the last 10 years and today. I feel like along with myself and the scouts that work for me, we're the best in the NFL.

"I just want to make sure that the people in Baltimore know that we are the best. There's no one better than our group. We're going to be back, and we're excited about it."

Savage joined Modell's franchise in 1991 as an assistant to the Cleveland Browns' coaching staff and worked his way to the position of scouting director by 1996, the Ravens' first season.

His exhaustive legwork became the overlooked foundation for transforming a perennial losing team into last season's Super Bowl champions. In the team's first five drafts, Savage was in the ear of Ozzie Newsome as the Ravens produced four Pro Bowl performers and 11 Super Bowl starters.

"Using my background as a tight end, Phil is like having an outstanding quarterback throwing to you," said Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel.

Losing Savage probably would have set off a chain reaction within the Ravens organization. If he had chosen to leave for the Eagles, a number of scouts whose contracts expire at the end of this month easily could have followed him.

That's why the Ravens sweetened his deal here with some increased duties under Newsome. Savage's involvement will extend into salary-cap matters and the occasional signing of players.

"He has a lot to bring to the table," Modell said. "Once those horizons are broadened, I think he will be a general manager someday."

But Savage wasn't alone in his meeting with Modell.

During the middle of their talks, Savage phoned his father for his opinion. He then rang his father again as the deal was finishing up.

In the end, it truly became a decision based on family.

"I think Art Modell's legacy will be, No. 1, winning the Super Bowl; and, No. 2, taking care of his people," Savage said. "I think after 10 years, I've proven to be one of his people, and he took care of me today."

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