Ravens, Boston might be meeting

Receiver could visit team next week

Blake says he won't contact other teams

March 01, 2003|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The Ravens have no visits scheduled for the first weekend of free agency, but they could have a marquee meeting next week.

After the Ravens had preliminary talks with the agent for receiver David Boston yesterday, there is a possibility that Boston soon could be dropping by the team's Owings Mills practice complex, a league source said.

Considered one of the top free agents available, Boston would immediately become the Ravens' long sought-after No. 1 receiver. During his four-year career, he has averaged 60 catches and 15.5 yards a reception.

But there is some risk involved. Boston missed half of last season with a knee injury after leading the NFL with 1,598 receiving yards in 2001.

He has also had some off-the-field legal problems and could face a possible fine or suspension this season by the league. In March, Boston pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence. He also reportedly tested positive for marijuana and cocaine, according to Phoenix police.

Boston, 24, became an unrestricted free agent yesterday when his contract with the Arizona Cardinals expired. Discussions about Boston came up yesterday after the Ravens had talked with agent Mitch Frankel about another one of his clients, cornerback Chris McAlister.

The Washington Redskins and Atlanta Falcons are also reportedly interested in the 6-foot-2, 236-pound receiver.

"He really is a total package as a wide-out," said George Kokinis, the Ravens' director of pro personnel. "He is certainly a guy that is intimidating coming up on defensive backs because he's big and he's fast. He's a big-play guy."

While the Ravens took the first step in adding a top receiver, they are at a standstill in re-signing quarterback Jeff Blake. Still, on the first day Blake officially went on the free-agent market, the 11-year quarterback said he will not shop himself around to other teams.

"[But] if another team comes to me, I'm going to listen to their offer," Blake said. "Being a free agent is being a free agent."

It will likely take another team to show interest in Blake to budge the Ravens from their current offer.

Options appear to be limited in free agency with just five (the Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos) of the remaining 31 NFL teams looking for a quarterback. The Cardinals might have the most interest in Blake, but they are known for being frugal.

Both the Ravens and Blake reported no progress in negotiations yesterday, with Blake's incentives package apparently remaining the biggest point of disagreement.

According to a league source, the Ravens are offering a long-term deal worth about $2 million (which includes a $1 million signing bonus) in the first season, and Blake is seeking a contract that pays closer to $5 million if incentives are met in the 2003 season. Take away those performance clauses and the sides are only about $500,000 away from the average payout over the length of the contract.

"Jeff is looking for a contract offer that is fair," said Ralph Cindrich, Blake's agent. "If he performs at a high level, he should be paid commensurate to a starting quarterback."

Blake had a difficult time in free agency last season. After failing to land deals with the Buffalo Bills and Redskins, he signed with the Ravens for the league minimum ($750,000) on April 24.

This time, Blake is looking for more financial assurance of being the starter.

"I want to play football, and I want to play for the Ravens," Blake said. "I want to take this team to the next level and to the Super Bowl."

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