Ravens retain interest in Northcutt

But sources say team unwilling to deal high pick for Browns wide receiver

Pro Football

March 24, 2004|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

While the Ravens remain high on Cleveland Browns receiver Dennis Northcutt, a trade offer is not necessarily imminent, team sources said yesterday.

Northcutt was one of the players the Ravens were going to target heading into free agency. But Northcutt's agent missed a deadline to file papers with the league that would have voided the remaining years of Northcutt's contract.

With Northcutt still the property of the Browns, Cleveland has given him permission to seek trade opportunities. Team sources said the Ravens are looking at Northcutt, but are not willing to part with a high draft choice to obtain him. The Ravens also might be open to a player-for-player deal.

The Browns, though, are unlikely to trade Northcutt within the division and have not ruled out the possibility of having him return. Northcutt led the Browns with 62 receptions for 729 yards last season, his first as a full-time starter, with two touchdowns.

The Ravens also would want Northcutt, 26, to return punts.

Ravens coach Brian Billick did not want to speak directly of Northcutt, who averaged 8.2 yards on 36 punt returns, but did say: "We're not done in terms of players because there are players getting pushed out in the market daily, for a number of reasons. You can anticipate some of it and some of it you can't. But I would think, with the exception of the receiver position, I don't know if we're going to be active in much else until after the draft."

Northcutt was originally a second-round pick in the 2000 draft out of Arizona.

The Ravens have not become jaded to the idea of trading for a receiver despite the team's failed attempt to acquire Terrell Owens from the San Francisco 49ers. Owens fought a trade that would have sent him to the Ravens for a second-round pick and eventually had his wish to play in Philadelphia granted when the three teams worked out a settlement last week.

The ordeal with Owens left the Ravens without a chance to match the offer given to receiver Marcus Robinson, who signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Now the team is forced to confront a bare free-agent receiver market that took another hit yesterday when Dez White signed with the Atlanta Falcons.

"The biggest travesty of it all is that if that had not transpired, through no fault of our own, we probably would have had Marcus back," Billick said.

"I think it's important for people to recognize that we had an excellent initial free agency," Billick said. "We signed five guys. It doesn't feel like that because they were all our own. But you have to keep in mind, they were free agents in Mike Flynn, [Matt] Stover, Adalius Thomas, Orlando [Brown], Anthony Wright - [plus] designating Chris [McAlister]. Holding this team intact and signing those guys has been a good free agency for us."

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