Ravens lose crowded race for Adams

Considering five teams, Pro Bowl defensive tackle decides on Raiders deal

Long-term offer turned down

Despite cap room, team won't be shopping around

August 20, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The Ravens' surprising loss of Sam Adams won't be any free agent's immediate gain.

After learning of Adams' signing with the Oakland Raiders yesterday, the Ravens indicated they would not splurge away their remaining cap room on a thin free-agent market. Ravens officials have had discussions about re-signing fullback Sam Gash and have continued talks with receiver Antonio Freeman, but both would be brought in as only backups.

"We're prepared to go to battle with what we've got," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "There is no one on the market that I'm aware of right now that we could go get and I would immediately pencil in as a starter."

The Ravens likely will use some of their cap space - which is estimated to be $1.5 million - to pursue players available after Sept. 1, the day teams cut down to their 53-man roster.

"It's not unlike next year when we have this windfall of cap room," Billick said. "It doesn't mean we're going to go on a free-fall spending spree. That wouldn't be prudent. We have some latitude now should something jump up [after Sept. 1]. And there will be something that presents itself. Where and what position? I couldn't say."

The Ravens, who cut Adams in March for cap reasons, were believed to be the front-runners in the five-team race to sign the two-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman.

Announcing Adams as their top priority at the beginning of this month, the Ravens had an offer on the table for weeks that included a signing bonus between $2.5 million and $3 million on a multi-year deal. It could have ballooned to a $5 million first-year payout if playing time incentives were met.

But the Raiders came in with a six-year contract - which essentially boils down to a one-year deal - and presumably offered more guaranteed upfront money.

Contract details were not disclosed. The Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and Cincinnati Bengals also were courting Adams.

"I'm happy for Sam. That's a great opportunity for him," Billick said. "It was just not prudent for us to do anything with someone of Sam's stature and abilities to do what amounts to a one-year deal. We are committed to a more long-term reference point. Unfortunately, he was much more focused on wanting to have a one-year deal that allows him to get back on the market next year."

Adams is one of several veterans signed this season by the Raiders for a last-ditch Super Bowl run, including former Ravens safety Rod Woodson.

"This is exactly where I needed to be," Adams told Oakland reporters. "It's the Oakland Raiders. What more do you need to say? I'm glad they gave me a chance."

Ravens players had mixed emotions over losing Adams, the 21st player from last year's team to sign elsewhere.

"Of course we wanted Sam back here," defensive end Michael McCrary said. "But we've got to move on. It's something we didn't expect and it happened, but we can't dwell on it. Everybody is going to have to step up a little more."

Without Adams, the Ravens are going with a starting three-man defensive front - McCrary and Tony Weaver at ends and Kelly Gregg at nose tackle - that has been beset by injuries and criticism.

Many consider McCrary and Gregg too small to hold up inside and think Weaver is too inexperienced. This group has yet to answer these questions because injuries have sidelined McCrary and Weaver for the first two preseason games.

McCrary is on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from knee surgery and is expected to see a half-dozen snaps in the final preseason game.

Weaver has a high ankle sprain and Billick said yesterday that he wasn't sure if the team's second-round draft pick would be able to return to the lineup by the end of the preseason.

Those injuries have led to the promotions of veteran Marques Douglas to left end and undrafted rookie Maake Kemoeatu to nose tackle and the move of Gregg to the other end spot.

"In the back of our minds we thought Sam was going to be here," Gregg said. "But we have to go with what we've got. Our guys are going to work hard and play hard. Sam would have been a great addition but he hasn't been here the whole training camp. So we have to keep approaching like we've been approaching it."

Another defender who has been moving around is Adalius Thomas. After working the past two days exclusively with the defensive linemen, he switched back and played outside linebacker in most of the team drills yesterday.

The Ravens envision rotating Thomas at linebacker with Peter Boulware and Shannon Taylor as well as having him come off the edge as a lineman.

The linebacking corps could get an addition soon as the team has continued talks with former Ravens linebacker Cornell Brown.

"We're going to get Adalius on the field whatever configuration it is," Billick said. "The beauty of it is we have a lot of latitude."

Said Thomas: "The more you can do, the merrier. Whatever makes the defense better, that's what I'm here to do. That's my whole focus."

Next for Ravens

Preseason opponent: Philadelphia Eagles

Site:Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia

When:Friday, 8 p.m.

TV/Radio:Chs. 45, 5/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

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