Titans' McNair not worth wait

On the Ravens

Pro Football

March 18, 2006|By MIKE PRESTON

The Ravens are taking a big risk waiting to see if the Tennessee Titans cut veteran quarterback Steve McNair.

It's apparent the Ravens are in no rush to sign any other quarterback such as Kerry Collins or Brian Griese because they were never seriously involved in negotiations with the Minnesota Vikings about Daunte Culpepper, who was traded to the Miami Dolphins earlier this week.

But word around the league has the Ravens waiting for Tennessee to decide on McNair, who has a $9 million base salary in 2006 and will count $23.46 million against the Titans' cap.

The problem is Tennessee doesn't have to do anything soon.

"Right now, Steve's a Titan and will be if they keep him for a year," his agent, Bus Cook, said recently. "But what they think Steve's future is and what Steve and I think his future is, that's significantly different."

Ideally, the Ravens would like to have McNair on the roster now. Unlike a decade or so ago when teams used training camp to condition players and implement new schemes, training camp is now used for putting the final touches on offenses and defenses. If McNair were signed now, the Ravens could have him involved in numerous passing camps and minicamps, and he would be ready for training camp.

The longer the Titans wait, the more it decreases McNair's chances of success with a new team. Also, McNair might become impatient and decide it's better to remain in Tennessee, where he is familiar with the offense. He might decide to restructure his contract to allow him to retire as a Titan.

As the Ravens wait, more viable options are coming off the board. The Titans probably won't make a decision on McNair until after the draft. They're in no rush.

The recurring question around town this week is: Why didn't the Ravens pursue Culpepper?

The Ravens backed away because of the major knee injury Culpepper suffered last season, and there are questions about when he could return to the playing field. But there are other issues about Culpepper, too.

When he was injured last season, a league source said he weighed about 280 pounds. The same source said Culpepper has lost about 45 pounds, but there are doubts about his being disciplined enough to control his weight. Culpepper also has some off-field issues as well, and was the center of attention in the love-boat fiasco in Minnesota last season.

He's no team player.

On a team that has struggled with chemistry problems the past two seasons, the Ravens don't need another prima donna. During recent team meetings, the Ravens decided they wanted to go back to players with a strong work ethic and thought they had stayed with draft picks way too long instead of allowing some to leave.

But McNair, who really wanted to go to Miami, isn't known as a great team player, either. Unless he comes cheap, here's a vote for Collins, the best of a miserable lot.

Just like real life, the NFL is about timing.

There weren't too many free agents happier this week than new Ravens defensive end Trevor Pryce. He had told some friends and teammates that he thought his big-money paydays were over, and then the Ravens gave him a five-year, $25 million contract, which included $10 million in guaranteed money.

Pryce also got some advice from former Broncos/Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe about how plush The Castle training facility was in Owings Mills, and how soft training camp is, especially for veteran players.

Makes you feel real good about this deal, huh?

As for running back Jamal Lewis returning here, where else could he go? Once Colts running back Edgerrin James signed with Arizona, the market for high-priced running backs dropped significantly.

But given the right conditions and a good offensive line, there are still one to two good years of football left in Lewis.

The Ravens waived two of my favorite all-time players this week.

End/outside linebacker Peter Boulware was released for the second time in less than a year, and the Ravens also cut right offensive tackle Orlando Brown. The two moves weren't surprises.

Boulware established himself as one of the league's best pass rushers, but was getting single-blocked in the final years of his career. When your forte is pass rushing and you're not getting double-teamed, it's time to retire. There has been a slide in Brown's performance since he rejoined the team in 2003.

But football aside, they were two of the nicest players on the team. Boulware remained firm and true to his Christian beliefs. Brown had the big, mean and nasty persona, but he was really a pussycat. He had a big heart and would do anything for children. I have to admit, though, it was fun watching him beat up on high-priced rookie defensive players drafted by the Ravens. One of his favorite targets was Boulware.

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