Ravens, Stewart moving closer

Raiders keep Gannon, taking Bucs QB Johnson out of Ravens' running

Ravens

May 26, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

If the quarterback landscape remains the same, Kordell Stewart will be the Ravens' new backup quarterback.

The likelihood of the Ravens signing the former Pro Bowl quarterback increased yesterday when Oakland Raiders coach Norv Turner announced Rich Gannon would remain the team's starter and that recently signed Kerry Collins would serve as backup.

That surprising development means Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden will not have a shot to reunite with Gannon, who was expected to be cut after the Raiders signed Collins, and will stick with Brad Johnson as his starter.

Johnson, who has strong ties to Ravens coach Brian Billick since their days together in Minnesota, was considered the biggest obstacle in preventing Stewart from joining the Ravens, who lost backup Anthony Wright to shoulder surgery on Monday.

Ravens officials, however, have denied a report in yesterday's Washington Post that they have given a contract offer to Stewart, although they indicated talks have been positive between the sides. But there's no urgency to sign the longtime Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback because he isn't being pursued by any other team.

The timetable to bring in a backup to Kyle Boller remains before June 7 so the new quarterback can participate in the full-team minicamp.

"We're going to keep our eyes on everybody," Billick said.

"We'll see what June 1 [the NFL's second major cutdown day] brings, and we'll go from there. There is nothing pending or imminent."

The dark horse to join the Ravens is Tim Couch, the top overall pick of the 1999 draft who might be released next week by the Cleveland Browns.

But Couch has been heavily linked to the Green Bay Packers and likely will be given more money and assurances there than with the Ravens.

The Ravens will only be offering a one-year deal worth the veteran minimum for their new backup, and their long-term plans revolve around Boller.

The only enticement the Ravens can offer is having a better opportunity to play this season.

Couch might head to Green Bay as the quarterback of the future, but he will receive limited snaps this year considering the Packers' Brett Favre is the league's most durable starter.

Another likely June cut, the St. Louis Rams' Kurt Warner, probably won't draw much interest from the Ravens. Besides questions surrounding his health and psyche, the former two-time NFL Most Valuable Player is a pure drop-back passer, which doesn't fit the Ravens' offensive profile.

All indications are pointing toward Stewart replacing Wright, who underwent surgery Monday to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder and will be unable to throw a football for the next four months.

He probably will be sidelined for at least the first six weeks of the regular season and perhaps could be out for the entire year.

Stewart, 31, is looking to revive his career after a dismal one-year stint with the Chicago Bears and a tumultuous exit from Pittsburgh.

Last season with the Bears, Stewart posted a 56.8 quarterback rating and a 50.2 completion percentage, both of which were the lowest among all NFL starters. He threw for 1,418 yards, with seven touchdowns and 12 interceptions, and was cut in March.

The main criticism of Stewart has been his lack of consistency. He has connected on less than 56 percent of his passes in five of his nine seasons and has thrown for more interceptions (84) than touchdowns (77) for his career.

Ravens officials, though, said they believe he could be a solid fit with the team's offensive system and have long been intrigued by Stewart's athleticism.

It was only three seasons ago when Stewart was named to his first Pro Bowl after throwing for 3,109 yards and completing 60.2 percent of his passes.

Stewart's agent, Leigh Steinberg, did not return phone calls yesterday.

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