If Ravens pay up, Adams will turn on heat

August 18, 2002|By MIKE PRESTON

THE RAVENS should have spent the last two days on the telephone talking with the agents for free-agent defensive tackle Sam Adams. They should have looked over the $2.5 million to $3 million salary they offered Adams recently, and increased the ante.

If it means putting more money into the signing bonus, then do it. If it means adding some incredibly easy attainable incentive clauses, then be creative and get it done. This is not to suggest that the Ravens should drastically overpay Adams, but it's time to get back into the serious hunt for a player whose presence is sorely missed.

If you watched all of the Ravens' 34-16 preseason loss to the New York Jets on Thursday night, the Ravens were exposed in a number of areas such as depth and red-zone efficiency. They have little speed from their outside receivers, and the secondary looked a lot like the bunch here in the early days with cornerbacks such as Antonio Langham, Issac Booth and Mr. Third and DeRon, DeRon Jenkins.

But the most glaring weakness on defense is that they don't have a lineman with a presence. New York ran up the middle at will, and the Ravens seldom got pressure on Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde. When they did, the pressure usually came off the edge.

The Ravens need a force in the middle. They need to have a lineman other teams have to game plan against. Defensive end Michael McCrary isn't the answer. Too small to play inside on a 3-4 defense on a regular basis. Nose guard Kelly Gregg ain't the answer. Not enough beef, either. Defensive end Tony Weaver? A rookie.

So, let's turn to Adams. Because of his quickness and penetration, offenses have to account for Adams. He can blow by most offensive linemen, or collapse a pocket by himself.

"Big, strong, athletic guy who can draw double teams," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' senior vice president of football operations. "He brings to the table the same things he has brought here the past two seasons."

Well, then what's the problem? Why hasn't he signed?

"We have an offer on the table," Newsome said. "We think it's a good, fair offer. We'll have to wait and see."

There's more to it. Adams had the reputation of being lazy in Seattle before he came to Baltimore. He supposedly took plays off. But in Baltimore the past two seasons, he has been a Pro Bowl Sam Adams, perhaps the best tackle in the NFL.

There are no stats on impact plays, but Adams has to be second to middle linebacker Ray Lewis during the past two seasons. His bottom-line stats: Two Pro Bowls, one Super Bowl ring.

But the Ravens are concerned that they might get Seattle Sam instead of Baltimore Sam. All Adams has done since he came here is play at a top level. Up the ante. Give Adams a little more money, or some more rosy incentives.

The Ravens were willing to guarantee Adams $5 million in March through a signing bonus, so why not increase the current offer on the table now?

"I have two Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl ring in Baltimore," Adams said. "I felt as though I had already answered all their questions on the field. But since I didn't answer them on the field, I have to answer them off the field."

Translation: Adams doesn't want to have to meet all those incentive clauses that might be based on playing time, actual plays, sacks, tackles. ... At age 29 and proven, the big guy wants more respect and more guaranteed money.

"I have a family. They have to eat, I have to provide," said Adams, who is mulling over offers from Denver and Seattle. "We're not that far apart. A couple of things just have to be tweaked, that's it. Just a few more tweaks."

Contrary to published reports of statements from agent Roosevelt Barnes that he didn't think Adams would play in Baltimore, Adams is much more optimistic. Barnes isn't even handling the negotiations. Partner Eugene Parker is running this show.

"I like Baltimore. It's like my second home," Adams said. "I want to help this team get back to the playoffs. I believe in Chris Redman. I believe in Jamal Lewis and our offensive line. I want to come in, put it down and get to the playoffs."

Adams then started sending out warnings. He is always the guy who talks about bringing a lunch pail and a hard hat to work on Sundays.

"All of this talk about Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, how they have caught us," Adams said. "Well, you still got to play the game. Bring it on."

Adams says his weight won't be a problem once he signs. He bought a semipro football team in Seattle, the East Side Hawks, who are 8-1. He has been working out twice a day, once with his employees.

"I'll come into camp crisp and fresh," Adams said. "I'll need some time to get into pads and throw some people around. It will take me about a week and a half to learn this new system, but I'll pick up on it and we'll be all right."

Newsome estimates the same time frame, and that Adams would be able to take about 40 snaps in the season opener against Carolina. Adams would start at left end, but he could also play nose guard, a position he could revolutionize with his size and speed.

The Ravens can bring the heat on the outside with players like outside linebackers Shannon Taylor and Peter Boulware, but New York didn't have a problem containing them with running backs and tight ends even though Boulware didn't play. Testaverde tortured the Ravens' cornerbacks because there wasn't a lot of pressure up the middle.

The Ravens need a presence inside. They need Sam Adams.

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