Boston eludes grasp of Ravens

Receiver agrees to deal with Chargers

Blake to visit Bears, Steelers

March 06, 2003|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

On the day when the best free-agent wide receiver canceled his visit to Baltimore, the Ravens learned that their starting quarterback will be meeting with the Chicago Bears and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Ravens failed to land elite receiver David Boston when they considered it too risky to match the guaranteed money offered by the San Diego Chargers. After canceling his morning flight here, Boston - who is coming off knee surgery and recent off-the-field problems - agreed to a seven-year, $47 million contract that guarantees him $12 million this season.

Meanwhile, quarterback Jeff Blake is scheduled to visit the Bears today and the Steelers on Monday. He could also be meeting with the Arizona Cardinals next week. The Ravens are in a standstill in contract talks with Blake, an unrestricted free agent who started the team's final 10 games last season.

Since free agency began, the Ravens called Blake a priority and chose not to talk with any other free-agent quarterbacks. But once Blake shops himself around, the Ravens could be more inclined to contact other quarterbacks, which might include a call to Kordell Stewart.

"If Jeff chooses to visit anywhere," Ravens coach Brian Billick said, "it would change my perspective."

But the team's perspective on Boston did not change.

The Ravens remained leery of Boston's knee surgery in November and last year's run-in with the law, when he pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence. He also tested positive for marijuana and cocaine, according to Phoenix police.

An NFL source said that the Ravens floated a six-year, $36 million offer to Boston on Monday that revealed their character issue concerns. A bulk of the money would be tied up in a roster bonus next year, which would allow the Ravens to monitor Boston's behavior and health for a full season before kicking in a huge investment.

The Ravens told Boston's agent, Mitch Frankel, that the structure of the offer would not change. Frankel did not return phone calls yesterday.

"David Boston is an incredible talent, and he's going to go to many Pro Bowls," Billick said. "We clearly took a stance early that there was going to be a threshold that we were going to hold to, given some of the circumstances surrounding him, that we weren't going to come off of. That was going to be the process for us. He understood from the get-go what that process was. San Diego has much more of a threshold right now for that risk, and that's great."

Boston is expected to sign the deal with San Diego on Monday.

"This [San Diego] situation seemed to have all the intangibles for me," Boston said. "They're trying to win, and that's what I'm trying to do."

Boston said he discussed his off-field trouble with Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer.

"I was very impressed with the young man," Schottenheimer said.

Boston, who led the NFL in receiving yards in 2001, would have filled the Ravens' void for a No. 1 receiver. With Boston gone, the backup plan has become a waiting game.

The Ravens aren't willing to go after receivers who would require giving up a first-round draft pick. That means Buffalo's Peerless Price, who was designated as the Bills' franchise player, and New York Jets restricted free agent Laveranues Coles are not on the Ravens' radar.

The team is also not interested in trading up from its No. 10 spot in the draft to grab top-rated receivers Charles Rogers or Andre Johnson. The Ravens will likely address the receiver position later in the month, when they could get a better value on free agents like Curtis Conway and Oronde Gadsden.

"It's not a real deep free-agent market, at that position or overall," Billick said. "David Boston was clearly the crown jewel of the wide receiver market, but we'll continue to evaluate players. We'll see what other players come available, but right now, there's not a clear-cut player we feel that we can go to and upgrade where we're at right now."

In other Ravens' free-agency news, the team welcomed back offensive tackle Orlando Brown for a visit. Brown, who played for the Ravens from 1996 to 1998, has been out of football since being cut by the Cleveland Browns in September 2000.

He was hurt Dec. 19, 1999, when referee Jeff Triplette threw a penalty flag that struck Brown's right eye. Brown went to the sideline, then came back on the field and pushed Triplette to the ground.

Despite his layoff from the game, Brown was impressive in his 30-minute workout for the Ravens. He also underwent an eye exam.

"He was much better than any of us anticipated footwork-wise," offensive line coach Jim Colletto said. "He's obviously done a lot since he's been out of football, and that's a compliment to him. He was a real surprise. I've told [general manager] Ozzie [Newsome] and Brian [Billick] that if he wants to come here, it would be a plus for us."

If signed, Brown would likely compete for the Ravens' starting right tackle job.

Brown, who has a home in Hunt Valley, has met with the Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings. He plans to visit the New England Patriots next.

Asked about the prospects of signing with the Ravens, Brown said: "It's a good chance. I like the team, and it's close to home."

NOTES: Former Ravens return specialist Jermaine Lewis and Minnesota Vikings fullback Harold Morrow have scheduled free-agent visits with the Ravens. ... With the no-show by Boston, the Ravens are looking to reschedule a face-to-face meeting with Frankel next week about another one of his clients, cornerback Chris McAlister.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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