Patient Ravens target Stewart

Ex-Steeler lone QB focus, but club looks to avoid bid war with Bears, Cards

March 10, 2003|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The Ravens are in a holding pattern in their pursuit of Kordell Stewart.

While the former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback mulls over offers from the Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals, the Ravens have not set up a visit and remain cautious about getting into a three-team bidding war. The Ravens still view Stewart as the top quarterback on the market and are looking to bring him in for a meeting later this week.

"We're going to be prudent with this," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

Stewart apparently is the only quarterback on the Ravens' radar. Team officials denied reports that Tennessee Titans backup Neil O'Donnell has been contacted, and no other quarterbacks are expected to visit this week.

Unlike their failed courtship of wide receiver David Boston, who signed a seven-year deal with San Diego last week, the Ravens have a good shot at bringing Stewart to town.

The offers from the Bears and Cardinals are reportedly less than $3 million a season. It is believed Stewart is seeking a deal similar to that of the Denver Broncos' Jake Plummer, who signed for about $4 million a year in the first three seasons.

The Ravens might not be willing to pay more than $3 million a season since they were only offering Jeff Blake between $1.5 million to $2 millon each year. That $3 million-a-year price tag might also be too steep for a team unwilling to hand Stewart the starting job. On Friday, Billick said whatever free-agent quarterback is signed will have an open competition with Chris Redman.

But the toughest part has been scheduling a visit with Stewart. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome is expected to be out for most of the week attending the league's competition committee meetings. The Ravens, though, are willing to push up Stewart's visit to earlier in the week if his timetable is sped up.

At this point, it appears Stewart might take a week before signing. As of last night, the Bears hadn't received a counteroffer from Stewart's agent, Leigh Steinberg.

"We want to make sure it's the right decision, not a quick one," Steinberg said Saturday.

Although they have not made an offer, the Ravens have a couple of factors working in their favor.

Unlike the Bears or Cardinals, the Ravens would be the one team that would allow him to face his former team twice a year since they are in the AFC North with the Steelers. Plus, they have a connection with Stewart through former NFL quarterback Warren Moon, who started two seasons under Billick in Minnesota and now works for Steinberg.

Billick got a better feel for Stewart by talking with Moon at the NFL combine last month. And Moon, who threw for more than 4,000 yards in 1994 and 1995 with Billick as his offensive coordinator, has filled in Stewart about Billick.

"He's gotten Kordell excited about playing for Brian Billick," Steinberg said.

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