Wide receiver Johnson will be leaving Ravens

Source says he'll opt out of contract for free agency

February 15, 2005|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Kevin Johnson has decided to opt out of the final year of his contract, a league source close to the situation said yesterday, leaving the Ravens with a void at wide receiver that they likely will have to fill through the draft or free agency.

Neither Johnson nor his agent, Tom Condon, could be reached to comment, but the source said Johnson will notify the Ravens soon that he plans to test the free-agent market and forgo his $1.4 million salary. The source said Johnson has a desire to play in a more pass-oriented offense.

Without Johnson, the Ravens will begin this year with a different pair of receivers. Travis Taylor is also set to become a free agent March 2, and the team likely will not keep him.

Johnson's 35 catches led the Ravens last year, but that was about half his career average heading into the season.

While the Ravens acquired Johnson -- sending a fourth-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars during the draft -- to boost a struggling passing game, the run-oriented attack with multiple tight ends often kept Johnson off the field, and he failed to develop a rapport with quarterback Kyle Boller.

At wide receiver, the Ravens have just Clarence Moore, Devard Darling and Fred Stamps, who signed at the end of the season, under contract. Moore and Darling are entering their second seasons, leaving Randy Hymes, a restricted free agent who is expected to return, as the top receiver on the roster.

Moore and Hymes combined for 50 receptions and 616 yards.

Johnson's leaving does give the Ravens more money to lure Oakland's Jerry Porter, a deep threat the team needs. The Ravens could also look at Pittsburgh receiver Plaxico Burress, who stands as the biggest name on the market, but the Steelers are expected to keep him.

The Ravens have the 22nd pick in the draft and may be able to get Oklahoma receiver Mark Clayton or South Carolina's Troy Williamson, one of the fastest players in the draft. As for Randy Moss, Minnesota's talented but troubled receiver may stay with the Vikings after a change in ownership was announced yesterday.

NOTE: Ravens kicker Matt Stover will present an electronic scoreboard and flag football uniforms to William Paca Elementary school in Baltimore today.

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