After loss, Ravens eye future

Re-signing free agents top priority for off-season

January 04, 2004|By P.J. Martinez | P.J. Martinez,SunSpot Staff

While stuffing their belongings in trash bags Sunday, most of the Ravens weren't in the mood to discuss yesterday's 20-17 loss to the Tennesee Titans in the first round of the AFC playoffs.

Instead, they were already talking about their promising future, one that relies largely upon whether the front office can retain several key members of the third-youngest roster in the NFL.

According to veteran linebacker Peter Boulware, there's a good chance of that happening.

"This team is going to be together for a while," he said. "I look at it as a long story. We've taken the first step in the first chapter of a very long book, and I think we're only going to get better. "

The Ravens went 10-6 this season, claiming their first AFC North championship. They finished with the NFL's top rushing offense and ranked third in the league in total defense.

But the Ravens finished the season with a few concerns, the most notable being the lack of production from starting quarterbacks Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright.

After holding out through the first week of training camp, Boller became the only rookie quarterback in the league to start on opening day. He led the Ravens to a 5-4 record in 9 games, but managed just a 62.4 quarterback rating during that period.

Boller's tenure as the starter came to an end on Nov. 9 in St. Louis when he suffered a torn left quadriceps in the Ravens' 33-22 loss to the Rams.

Despite missing four games and spending the next four as a backup to Wright, Boller said Sunday that he plans on returning as the team's starter in 2004.

"I'm going to be the starting quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens," he said. "I've got nine games under my belt, and I want to go into next season on a full sprint."

Ravens coach Brian Billick declined to confirm Boller's statement at Sunday's news conference, saying only that the coaching staff will evaluate Boller and Wright during the offseason before making a decision.

After finishing 2002 on the Ravens' practice squad, Wright began the year as the team's third-string quarterback, but was elevated to starter after a dismal performance by Chris Redman in the second half against St. Louis. Wright led the team to a 5-3 record, finishing the year with a quarterback rating of 72.3

Despite the Ravens' financial committment to Boller, who signed a five-year, $8 million deal in August, Billick said re-signing Wright will be a priority during the offseason.

"We very much want to have Anthony Wright back and Anthony knows that," he said. "Under what circumstances and what parameters, that needs to be evaluated."

Another major priority for the Ravens will be re-signing their franchise player Chris McAlister, who signed a one-year, $5.9 million contract before the season.

"I'll be back," he said. "I'm not even negotiating. I've already told them, they've got no choice but to bring me back. I'm not going anywhere - I've been a Raven since I they drafted me, and I'm going to retire a Raven."

Recognized for some time as one of the premier corners in the league, McAlister was named to his first Pro Bowl this season.

Boulware update: Boulware, who missed Saturday's game against the Titans with a sprained right knee, said he plans to have arthroscopic surgery in the coming weeks.

"I'm going to have to get [the knee] cleaned out," he said. "I'm going to talk with the trainer and we're going to get a scheduled day. It'll probably be pretty soon."

Originally published January 4, 2004, 5:53 PM EST

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