Ravens again will discuss contract with McAlister

Long-term deal sought by team and cornerback

Pro Football

July 16, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The Ravens will restart talks on a long-term contract with Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister next week, team officials said yesterday.

McAlister was designated the team's franchise player for a second straight year to keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent and was tendered a one-year deal worth $7.1 million. Because the sides were unable to reach a multi-year agreement by mid-March, league rules prevented them from resuming talks until yesterday.

"I think the intentions of the player, the agent and the organization is to enter into a long-term agreement," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "But that will only happen after he signs the tender."

McAlister needs to sign the tender before suiting up for training camp, which begins in two weeks. The six-year starter did not attend offseason workouts but said last month that he planned to be at camp on time.

"Chris wants to sign a long-term deal with the Ravens," said Mitch Frankel, McAlister's agent. "But based on our last conversations, I'm not optimistic."

Frankel has repeatedly said he wants the contract of Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey (seven years, $63 million with an $18 million signing bonus) to set the value for McAlister since both are relatively the same age (mid-20s) and are considered among the top five at their position.

McAlister established himself as an elite cornerback last year, when he shut down such big-name receivers as Denver's Rod Smith, the Jacksonville Jaguars' Jimmy Smith, the St. Louis Rams' Torry Holt and the San Francisco 49ers' Terrell Owens.

If the Ravens can't secure McAlister to a long-term deal this year, it becomes increasingly tougher to fit him under the salary cap as the franchise player. To franchise him for a third straight season, the Ravens would need to offer him a one-year, $8.5 million tender, which is a 20 percent increase from his current deal.

"We believe Chris McAlister is the best cornerback in the National Football League; we concede that," coach Brian Billick said recently. "The question becomes, what do you pay the best cornerback in the NFL? That is what the negotiations are about now."

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