49ers' Owens given 3 days to work trade

But Ravens are in no rush as they look for `right guy'

March 03, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

If the Ravens want Terrell Owens, they likely will have to take a faster-than-expected route to grab the four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver.

The San Francisco 49ers granted Owens permission yesterday to pursue a trade in "the next 72 hours." The Ravens, meanwhile, stressed the importance of patience in free agency, which kicks off today.

"Am I in a rush to get a receiver just so I can have good headlines in the paper and make the 6 o'clock news? No," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "I'm looking for the right guy."

Owens, 30, missed a deadline last week to void the final three seasons of his current deal and remains under contract to the 49ers, pending a grievance filed by his agent.

According to an NFL source, San Francisco may be willing to part with the disgruntled receiver in exchange for a second- or third-round draft pick. Owens previously has said he is interested in playing for the Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons.

"I think it's very improbable that he would be back," 49ers general manager Terry Donahue said at a news conference. "Both parties have agreed to pursue a trade very actively in the next 72 hours."

Perhaps by Friday, the Ravens could fill their top need of free agency.

During the past four seasons, Owens has averaged 92.5 catches for 1,316 yards and 12.8 touchdowns. Last season, the Ravens' entire wide receiver corps totaled 85 receptions for 1,265 yards and nine touchdowns.

But Owens' over-the-top touchdown celebrations along with public criticism of his quarterback and offensive coordinator could be a danger to team chemistry. Because Owens is under contract, league rules prohibit the Ravens from commenting on him.

"My head is not in the sand," Newsome said. "We realize the importance throughout this organization of us getting another quality receiver to go with our offense. We're going to exhaust our resources to be able to upgrade our receiving corps this year if it's available to us."

Besides receiver, the other priorities for the Ravens appear to be upgrading at defensive end, finding a nickel back (the fifth defensive back) and retaining backup quarterback Anthony Wright.

In the big picture, Newsome said landing a dependable second option behind starting quarterback Kyle Boller may be the most critical need.

"Based on the history of quarterbacks getting injured in this league," Newsome said, "it is valuable to have a very good backup quarterback as opposed to a receiver, pass rusher or another corner."

Newsome said the team isn't expected to have any free-agent visits today. He emphasized that the Ravens are focused on re-signing their own unrestricted free agents.

The team is in negotiations with five of its players, but Newsome declined to disclose their names. The list presumably includes Wright, kicker Matt Stover, kickoff specialist Wade Richey, offensive tackle Orlando Brown and receiver Marcus Robinson.

The free agent most likely to leave the Ravens is outside linebacker Adalius Thomas, who was named to the Pro Bowl for special teams last season.

The Ravens are expected to move Terrell Suggs, a first-round pick last year, into the starting lineup and would use Thomas as a special teams ace and a situational defensive player. Other teams might offer Thomas a starting job and a bigger contract, which the Ravens probably won't match. The Cincinnati Bengals and Jacksonville Jaguars reportedly will be interested in him.

"History has shown that re-signing your own guys is the best way to go," Newsome said. "That's where we want to start. We know those guys and know what they're capable of doing.

"For us to make the big splash, I don't think that gets you Super Bowls."

NOTES: The Ravens are attempting to schedule a face-to-face meeting with Mitch Frankel, the agent for Chris McAlister, by next week. The Pro Bowl cornerback was named the team's franchise player last month. ... Newsome said it would be "impossible" for the Ravens to move up from the second round (51st selection) to the first round of the draft. ... Center Mike Flynn, who reached an agreement Tuesday, will sign a five-year contract worth $11.2 million that includes a $4 million signing bonus.

Ravens' free agents

Unrestricted

Orlando Brown, OT

Projected return to Ravens: Likely.

Interest around the league: Moderate.

Analysis: The Patriots have shown interest in the past, but Brown would prefer to stay in the area. The Ravens reportedly are close to re-signing the 33-year-old veteran.

Bernardo Harris, ILB

Projected return to Ravens: Unlikely.

Interest around the league: Low.

Analysis: A decent situational player, Harris doesn't fit into the Ravens' plans because of age (32) and injuries.

John Jones, TE

Projected return to Ravens: Uncertain.

Interest around the league: Low.

Analysis: His special teams ability helps his chances to return, but Jones still is considered nothing more than a third-string tight end.

Tom Knight, CB

Projected return to Ravens: Uncertain.

Interest around the league: Low.

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