Browns open to Ravens trade

Cleveland willing to deal Northcutt, but it wants more than 5th-round pick

Player's agent corrals Newsome

Ruling in Clarett case could give Ravens shot at USC receiver Williams

Pro Football

April 01, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

PALM BEACH, Fla. - Coach Butch Davis said yesterday that the Cleveland Browns are open to trading receiver Dennis Northcutt to the Ravens.

"It could happen," Davis said on the final day of the owners meetings, "but not at what they're offering."

When asked what their AFC North rival was offering, Davis said, "a fifth-round pick."

The Ravens are looking to fill the void left at receiver when their trade for Terrell Owens was nullified two weeks ago.

According to a league source, the Ravens remain interested in Northcutt as a receiver and punt returner, but probably wouldn't be willing to give up a high draft pick for him. The team would be willing to part with a fifth-rounder because it gained the Philadelphia Eagles' selection in that round as compensation for Owens.

Northcutt's agent, Jerome Stanley, chased down Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome after the league meetings ended yesterday and talked with him for a couple of minutes.

Stanley did not return phone calls. Newsome, though, said no moves are imminent as far as wide receiver or any other position goes.

"I don't think anything is going to happen between now and Monday," Newsome said.

It was only a day ago when Ravens coach Brian Billick said the team's best option to upgrade at receiver was through the draft. He all but ruled out trading for Northcutt based on the teams' playing in the same division and the Ravens' tumultuous move from Cleveland in 1995.

"Obviously, we would be one of the least likely teams," Billick said Tuesday. "But you never know. You see a Drew Bledsoe go from New England to Buffalo. So, stranger things have happened."

Northcutt, 26, had planned on becoming a free agent this offseason, but lost that right when his agent failed to void the final three years of his contract by the date stipulated in his contract.

With Northcutt angry, the Browns gave him permission to work out a trade. Cleveland, however, could make Northcutt play out his contract, which pays him $700,000 over the next three years.

To smooth out differences, Davis recently met with Northcutt for 40 minutes while attending a workout in Los Angeles. Northcutt, who was the No. 3 receiver for Cleveland, told Davis his preference is to be on a team for which he can start.

Last season, Northcutt produced career highs in catches (62) and yards (729). He also scored two touchdowns.

Meanwhile, the Ravens may have a shot at Southern California sophomore receiver Mike Williams. Considered a top 10 pick in the draft, Williams followed in the footsteps of Maurice Clarett, a sophomore running back from Ohio State who successfully challenged the NFL early-entry rules in court.

But Williams could be headed for a supplemental draft instead of the general one held on April 24-25, which would improve the Ravens' chances of landing him.

On Tuesday, a federal court decided to accelerate consideration of the NFL's appeal just days before the draft. If a stay is granted until after the draft and the NFL subsequently loses its appeal, the league would hold a supplemental draft 10 days after the court ruling.

The Ravens would pick 21st in the supplemental draft (based on last season's records) and presumably would take Williams if the first 20 teams pass on him. By selecting him in that process, the Ravens would lose their first-round pick in the 2005 draft.

If Williams is included in the general draft, the Ravens would have virtually no chance to select him. The team doesn't pick until the second round because it traded its first-rounder to the New England Patriots last year to move up and draft quarterback Kyle Boller.

"That [supplemental draft] gives us the opportunity," Newsome said. "We would still be picking 21, but we would be back in the game as far as having a first-round pick."

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