Blake, Ravens still $3 million apart on deal

Veteran QB seeks contract that is $5M with incentives

Newsome: `Priority is to sign Jeff'

Team has no plans to talk with other free-agent QBs

February 28, 2003|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Although quarterback Jeff Blake and Ravens coach Brian Billick met in Florida yesterday, the two sides are still not seeing eye to eye.

As free agency began at midnight, the Ravens and Blake are nearly $3 million apart on the first-year payout of a long-term contract, a league source said. The Ravens are offering a deal worth about $2 million (which includes a $1 million signing bonus) this season, and Blake is seeking a contract that pays closer to $5 million if incentives are met.

Despite the sizable gap, the Ravens will continue to press forward in re-signing Blake and don't plan to talk with any other free-agent quarterback at this point.

"Right now, the priority is to sign Jeff," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "If that falls through, then we'll take our time to try to find someone else to come in and play with Chris [Redman]. And that doesn't alleviate the draft."

Ravens chief negotiator Pat Moriarty talked with Blake's agent, Ralph Cindrich, in the morning and evening, exchanging numbers for a new multi-year deal.

The sides are close on the average numbers over the length of the contract. It is believed that Blake wants an average of $2 million per year (not including incentives), while the Ravens are offering an average around $1.5 million.

The biggest roadblock is an incentives package - which typically is based on yardage, playing time and team victories - that could tack on nearly $3 million to the first year of the contract.

Cindrich did not return phone calls yesterday. Earlier this week, Cindrich said, "They are not presenting a starter-type contract."

As these talks were occurring yesterday, Billick was having lunch with Blake in Florida to reiterate his role and help speed up the negotiations.

"That [meeting] is showing our commitment that we want to bring him back as the quarterback on this team," Newsome said.

Besides Blake, the team will not be an active player in the first weekend of free agency and won't have any free-agent visits until next week.

A source said the Ravens remain interested in Arizona Cardinals receiver David Boston, but they are not willing to splurge quickly despite an estimated $16 million in cap room. The Ravens believe there won't be an early bidding war for Boston and will likely wait to see how much other teams - presumably the Washington Redskins and Atlanta Falcons - are willing to offer.

The Ravens, though, have started preliminary discussions with some former Ravens.

Team officials have talked with the agents of return specialist Jermaine Lewis and offensive tackle Orlando Brown about scheduling visits next week. Defensive tackle Sam Adams, who was a salary cap casualty by the Oakland Raiders, also phoned Ravens defensive line coach Rex Ryan yesterday.

"We're not going to be one of the teams that are going to fly someone in on Saturday and have a big press conference on Sunday," Newsome said. "That's not happening here. We're going to take it real slow in free agency. That's when we have done our best. When you jump out there first, you end up setting the market. We're going to let other teams set the market."

The Ravens plan to speak next week to the agent of cornerback Chris McAlister, who was slapped with the franchise tag a week ago.

If the sides can't agree on a long-term deal by March 15, McAlister will likely play this season on a one-year, $5.9 million contract. Under league rules, the Ravens would lose the right to use a franchise tag over the length of McAlister's new contract if they struck a deal after March 15.

"We're moving forward," Newsome said. "Whether a deal is going to get done, I can't predict right now. I feel like we want to get a deal done and I think they want to. When you have those two things working together, then there is a good chance that might happen."

Blake vs. Stewart

As free agency begins, the Ravens are negotiating with quarterback Jeff Blake but remain interested in Kordell Stewart as a backup option. A comparison of their career totals:

Quarterback...Age...Comp-Att...Yds...Pct. ...TD...Int...Rating

Blake.............32...1,593-2,828...19,283...56.3...119...83...79.2

Stewart...........30...1,190-2,107...13,328...56.5...70...72...72.3

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