Ravens are not expecting McAlister

Team says his absence in training camp won't result in hard feelings

July 28, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Resigned to the fact that Chris McAlister will be a no-show when players report to training camp tomorrow, Ravens officials said the Pro Bowl cornerback's absence will not result in any ill will, or a new contract.

The Ravens, who named McAlister as their franchise player for the second straight year to keep him off the free-agent market, reiterated this week their refusal to discuss a long-term deal with him until he signs his one-year, $7.1 million tender. But the five-year starter doesn't want to sign that contract because it would force him to report to camp.

Talks have remained at a standstill since the NFL allowed the sides to resume negotiations two weeks ago.

"We would love to have Chris here, but we understand if he's not," coach Brian Billick said. "Being in the franchise position, Chris is being asked things of him that no other player is being asked. We are going to respect the position he's in. We hope he respects the position we're in with regards to the financial end of it and the way we feel we have to go about doing business, such as signing the tender before we can negotiate."

McAlister said last night that he has yet to make a decision and it's up to the Ravens whether he will report to McDaniel College on time.

"Give me a good reason to get on a plane as soon as possible and I'll be there," McAlister said from Los Angeles. "All I'm looking for is positive reinforcement."

Because he has yet to sign that one-year offer, he isn't under contract and can't be fined for skipping training camp.

Many franchise players miss some portion of camp to protest the tag, which keeps them from getting a large signing bonus on a long-term contract.

"There are only so many ways I can express myself and this [missing the start of camp] is one of them," McAlister said.

According to a source close to McAlister, he has talked about returning to the team as early as Monday. When asked about that date, McAlister said "I can neither confirm nor deny it."

There is also the option for McAlister to wait to come back until the Sept. 12 season opener and still earn the full amount of his contract.

"We are prepared for Chris to arrive the Monday before our opener if he so chooses," general manager Ozzie Newsome said.

If McAlister waits that long, the Ravens can't guarantee that he could jump into the starting lineup for the opener.

"It would be very difficult for Chris and us to be very comfortable with Chris' safety and his ability to do his job if he were to show up literally the week of the first regular-season game," Billick said. "Would we do it? I don't know. We'll see."

According to a league source, McAlister is seeking an $18 million signing bonus, equaling the one given to Denver cornerback Champ Bailey. Oakland cornerback Charles Woodson, who also has been franchised, has reportedly been offered a better contract than Bailey.

One of the reasons Ravens officials are wary about giving McAlister that bonus is because it could cause perennial All-Pros like Ray Lewis ($19 million signing bonus in 2002) and Jonathan Ogden ($16 million in 2000) to seek more money in re-negotiated contracts, the source added. It is believed the Ravens have offered McAlister a $16 million bonus.

However, some teams prefer keeping the tag on players because it keeps challenging them to play at a high level just in case they are allowed to become free agents the next offseason.

The Ravens likely have just enough salary cap room to franchise McAlister for a third straight season, which would require a one-year, $8.5 million tender.

NOTE: The Ravens have an agreement in principle on a three-year deal with seventh-round pick Derek Abney. Abney, a receiver/return specialist, will compete with Lamont Brightful to be the team's punt returner.

Six of the seven Ravens draft choices have agreed to contracts. Only receiver Clarence Moore (sixth round) has yet to come to terms, but he is expected to sign before players report tomorrow.

Sun staff writer Brent Jones contributed to this article.

Ravens camp data

What: Ravens training camp

When: Friday to Aug. 24

Where: McDaniel College

Admission: Free

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