Boulware, Lewis set to report to camp

Possibility of new deals with linebackers fading as Friday deadline nears

July 23, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

As training camp draws near, the possibility of the Ravens locking up contract renegotiations with linebackers Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware becomes more remote.

Ravens officials reiterated yesterday that they want to have the deals done by the start of training camp on Friday or table discussions until the end of the season. But that unofficial deadline will likely pass without a conversation between the sides.

"There's a time for play and there's a time for pay," Ravens coach Brian Billick said on his first day back from vacation. "We're three days away from it being a time to play. When it's time to play, that's it. I'm reaching that point. That's where my focus is."

Despite the stalled talks, Lewis and Boulware are prepared to report to camp Thursday evening. During the heated negotiations this off-season, Lewis missed all three voluntary camps and Boulware skipped two of them.

"They fully intend to be at camp," said agent Roosevelt Barnes, who shares representation of Lewis and Boulware with Eugene Parker. "They're consummate pros. They'll be there and be ready to do what they do best."

The sides have been talking for five months about restructuring the contracts of the linebackers, which would extend their deals while providing immediate salary cap room for the Ravens. Lewis is scheduled to earn $4.75 million in each of the final two years of his contract, which ends after the 2003 season, and Boulware is expected to make $4.3 million this year, the last of his deal.

The Ravens and Lewis have basically agreed on much of the contract except the signing bonus, which would have likely ended up being between $18 million and $21 million. For Boulware, the agents have been seeking a deal that would surpass Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor's six-year, $42 million deal (including a $9 million signing bonus).

The negotiations, however, reached a lengthy stalemate and then took a bitter turn last month, when the Ravens indicated they would slap a franchise tag on Boulware next year if a new deal couldn't be reached. By using that tag, a team keeps that player from becoming an unrestricted free agent and only has to give a one-year deal equal to the average salary of the league's five highest-paid players at his position.

The Ravens reportedly had a chance earlier this month to sign Boulware to a new one-year deal that would have given them $4 million in immediate cap space. But the Ravens declined since it hinged on them forfeiting the right to use the franchise tag on Boulware next season.

When asked about the last time he had spoken to the Ravens, Barnes said, "It's been a while."

The Ravens aren't in a rush anymore to get the deals done since all of their targeted free agents are off the market. The team had expressed an interest in free agents like receiver Antonio Freeman, fullback Sam Gash, safety Eric Brown and offensive lineman Ben Coleman - all of whom are still available - but Billick said yesterday that there is really no incentive for the team to reinitiate talks.

In all likelihood, the Ravens will begin the season with no more veteran additions to the roster.

"We have long passed the advantages of who might have been able to augment this team with," Billick said.

Billick, however, left open a chance that a deal could occur in camp but deemed it a long shot.

"If their representation came into training camp and said, `We're ready to do this now,' we're not going to slam the door in their face," Billick said. "But we've covered all of the ground you can cover. It is the way it is. If it can't be done, something extra would have to come into it. From my perspective or from the players' perspectives, neither one of us want to deal with it in training camp."

Right now, the Ravens have been more preoccupied with contract talks with their nine unsigned draft picks. Only Ron Johnson, a receiver picked in the fourth round, has agreed to terms.

Team officials said they aren't worried about this imposing situation and it could lead to signing five picks just before players report Thursday.

"You're so used to it," Billick said. "Based on my conversations, I think we're in pretty good shape, and I would be surprised [at any holdouts]. It's typical that as I'm walking into that 5 p.m. meeting, there'll be some guy signing in the last minute. That's just standard operating procedure. Why it always has to go to the 11th hour is beyond me."

At a glance

What: Ravens training camp

Where: McDaniel College, Westminster

When: Friday to Aug. 21

Directions and parking:From Baltimore via I-695: Take I-695 (Baltimore Beltway) to Exit 19 onto I-795 North (Northwest Expressway), continue to its completion. Follow signs to Westminster via Route 140 West to Route 31 South; at blinking traffic light, turn left (Route 31); at first traffic light, turn left onto Main Street. Proceed up the hill; the entrance to Ravens visitor parking is on the left. Follow the drive around Bair Stadium and look for the signs.

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