Spears backs out on Ravens agreement

Offensive tackle decides to stay with Chiefs

team now eyes free agent Oben

Pro Football

May 07, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

The Marcus Spears saga has come to a negative conclusion for the Ravens.

After leaning toward remaining with the Kansas City Chiefs last week, then agreeing in principle to a deal with the Ravens on Thursday, Spears changed his mind again yesterday morning, backing out of a four-year contract worth $4 million.

Spears, who was projected to be the Ravens' starting right tackle, was to fly to Baltimore and sign the contract yesterday. But according to Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' senior vice president of football operations, Spears declined the Ravens' offer for family reasons and re-signed with the Chiefs.

"We had a deal in place between he, myself and the agent, and he reneged on that deal," Newsome said.

Spears' agent, David Dunn, did not return phone calls yesterday.

The Ravens were not left empty-handed, however. The team brought free-agent tackle Roman Oben to the training facility about five hours after the Spears deal fell through.

Oben, who spent the past two seasons with the Cleveland Browns, could be signed as early as this week. He had started 77 straight games with the New York Giants and Browns before he was benched late last season.

"We still had plans on bringing other people in," Newsome said. "That still is in play even though we thought we had the agreement with Marcus.

"I don't think what happened with Marcus will have any more or less impact on us signing Roman Oben. It could be done if Marcus was a Raven, and it could be done in that he is not."

Spears visited the Ravens last Tuesday but said the next day that his heart was in Kansas City and he most likely would re-sign with the Chiefs. He then decided later that evening to become a Raven after the team increased its offer and promised him the starting right tackle position, according to a league source.

Apparently, however, Spears' family was not in favor of the move, and he likely will remain a backup to John Tait with the Chiefs for less money.

If the Ravens are unable to sign Oben, 29, they probably will have to wait until after the June 1 cuts, when more offensive linemen with equal or better skills could be available. For now, second-year player Jason Thomas returns to the first team. Thomas has not started in the NFL.

"We will continue to pursue adding depth to the offensive line," Newsome said.

Ravens coach Brian Billick was not available to comment.

This is not the first time the Ravens have been jilted by a free agent. In March 1997, safety Brock Marion agreed to four-year deal worth $8.4 million. But 10 minutes before an introductory news conference, the Ravens learned Marion had failed his physical because of a shoulder injury that had cut short his previous season.

Marion and the Ravens were unable to reach an agreement on a restructured deal, so he re-signed with the Dallas Cowboys for one year before signing a multi-year contract with the Miami Dolphins.

That same off-season, Cowboys linebacker Broderick Thomas had a change of heart shortly before he was to sign with the Ravens. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones whisked Thomas out of Baltimore and back to Dallas on his private jet, then persuaded him to re-sign with Dallas.

"We've had some close encounters like this, but not where the player has publicly stated that he was in agreement," Newsome said. "We've never gotten to that point, but we've had it where we were close to an agreement and the other team was close, too, and the other player decided to go the other way."

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