Ravens making move on Owens

Source: Team contacted 49ers about receiver

S.F. wants deal by tomorrow

March 04, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Considered one of the leading contenders to land Terrell Owens, the Ravens officially joined the pursuit of the All-Pro receiver yesterday.

According to a league source, the Ravens informed the San Francisco 49ers that they would be interested in trading for Owens, making their first move to acquire one of the NFL's marquee players. The next step is agreeing on how much it will cost to complete the deal, which might end up being a second- or third-round pick in this year's draft.

The 49ers, who want a deal finalized by tomorrow, spent yesterday shopping their disgruntled receiver around the league to find his market value and likely didn't come away with a long list of interested parties. The Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles have been the most-publicized candidates.

A deal with the Ravens might be pushed into next week since team officials presumably would want to visit with Owens to find a comfort level with him. There have been no negotiations between the Ravens and 49ers on what draft picks would be required to trigger a trade.

If the Eagles are willing to give up a first-round draft choice (28th overall) - which is considered a long shot - they would have the inside track for Owens. The Ravens don't have a pick in the first round because they traded up last year to draft quarterback Kyle Boller.

But if Philadelphia wants to hold onto its first-rounder, the Ravens would have the edge since they could offer a second-round selection (51st overall) that is seven spots higher than the Eagles' pick (58th).

Now, the potential decision for the Ravens is this: Are they willing to risk parting with a pick that could produce a starter for four to five seasons (like past second-rounders Jamie Sharper, Gary Baxter and Tony Weaver) for a player who might be on the team for one year? Giving up a third-round pick for Owens is considered a no-brainer.

Ravens officials declined to comment on any possible trades yesterday. Owens' agent, David Joseph, did not return calls.

Meanwhile, the Ravens initiated contact with receiver Darrell Jackson on the first day of free agency.

Jackson had 68 catches for 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns for the Seattle Seahawks last season. No visit with the Ravens has been scheduled.

"I've had a conversation with [Ravens general manager] Ozzie Newsome, and there is some interest," Brian Mooney, Jackson's agent, said from Detroit, where the receiver will meet with the Lions today.

Trading for Owens probably would be less costly than signing Jackson because Owens isn't a free agent and can't command a signing bonus. In fact, the Ravens probably wouldn't have gone after Owens if he successfully reached the free-agent market because of his asking price.

Wherever Owens is traded now, his new team would have to assume only his $5.3 million salary for this year. Unless Owens' agent is desperate to get a new deal (meaning a bargain could be had), the Ravens probably would want him to play under his current salary for 2004.

Although Owens is under contract through 2006, he could expect a bigger payday next season if he produces on the field and creates little tension in the locker room. Based on the Ravens' history, they reward elite players with new contracts once they have proved themselves (linebackers Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware along with offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden).

But the trade remains a gamble since Owens could fail to live up to his Pro Bowl numbers and become a disruption, forcing the Ravens to cut ties after one season.

Over the past four years, Owens, 30, has averaged 92.5 catches for 1,316 yards and 12.8 touchdowns, and probably would have more teams interested in acquiring him if not for his bad-boy image.

Besides his excessive touchdown celebrations, Owens berated his offensive coordinator during a sideline tantrum last September, laughed and talked on a cell phone while standing on the sideline after leaving another game because of an injury and was publicly critical of quarterback Jeff Garcia.

When asked about the risk of adding players with conduct issues, Ravens coach Brian Billick said, "Any player you bring in, you have to be concerned about team chemistry. It's not necessarily the guy may or may not be a bad apple. It's just in terms of demeanor and work ethic. We have very good team chemistry. This team has been together for a while and has developed a certain camaraderie. You don't want to disrupt that."

The Ravens have been successful in bringing in players with questionable reputations - defensive tackle Sam Adams, for instance - while maintaining a cohesive locker room. They have been able to absorb such individuals primarily because of veteran leadership, which starts with Lewis.

"I think Ray Lewis is an asset to this organization because of the respect he has among his peers," Newsome said. "From that standpoint, we would never put Ray Lewis in a situation where he has to babysit a player."

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