F. Sanders, Ravens meet, get to know each other

Receiver, team optimistic that a deal will get done

Pro Football

March 22, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

After not having a fair shot at one former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver, the Ravens made sure that scenario would not play out again.

The team brought in veteran Frank Sanders for a visit to the Owings Mills complex yesterday after failing to bring in David Boston earlier this month.

Sanders and Boston were starters together for the Cardinals the past three seasons, but Arizona did not make much of a push to keep either player.

Boston, thought to be one of the two best receivers in free agency, would have met with Ravens officials but did not make it out of San Diego without signing a seven-year contract with the Chargers.

Sanders, probably the best all-around unrestricted free-agent receiver left, made it out of Baltimore without a contract, but both he and the team were optimistic a deal would get done.

The Ravens have not extended a contract offer to Sanders and will likely enter into negotiations with his agent, Eugene Parker, next week.

"I thoroughly enjoyed the visit, meeting all the personnel," Sanders said. "[Former Raven] Duane [Starks] came out to the Cardinals last year, and as a player, you ask about championships and things like that. Everything he expounded about, Art Modell, the organization, [Brian] Billick, the players, it's first class all the way."

Sanders, 30, ranks as one of the most productive receivers in Cardinals franchise history, finishing in the top five in catches (493) and yards (6,579). He posted 1,000-yard receiving years in 1997 and '98. His 89 receptions in '98 were second in the NFL.

But after starting every game for the Cardinals for five straight seasons, Sanders has dealt with minor injuries the past two years. He missed the final four games of last season with a foot injury, but he said he has recovered.

"This is my first time being a free agent," said Sanders, who had 34 catches for 400 yards, both career lows, and two touchdowns last season. "I've been to Carolina, I'm here now. Now I have an ability to stand back and compare for the first time, and I don't want to make a decision too soon on things I don't know yet. But if I had to make a decision about a program today, this could definitely be a good choice because they are speaking the language that needs to be spoken."

Signing Sanders would be a boost to a receiving corps that has only one player (Travis Taylor) with more than one year of experience. Last year's starter, Brandon Stokley, signed with the Indianapolis Colts, and the Ravens are left with four erratic second-year players behind Taylor in Randy Hymes, Ron Johnson, Javin Hunter and Marc Lester. The four combined for 21 catches last season.

"We made it very clear, receiver is something we would like to target in the offseason," Billick said. "Boston was clearly at the top of that group. But outside of David Boston, there was no clear-cut No. 2 guy."

Sanders would almost surely be the Ravens' No. 2 receiver, one that has the ability to play the slot (the inside position) in a three-receiver formation.

"I still enjoy working the inside slot position, so if they are looking for one to do it, I'm definitely up for the challenge," he said.

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