Ravens can meet McNair

Titans give OK

`agreeable' to deal

Titans clear Ravens to pursue McNair

May 01, 2006|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

Steve McNair was granted permission to talk with the Ravens yesterday, likely marking the first step toward the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback's joining the team.

According to a league source, McNair's agent seemed "agreeable" to a deal offered by the Ravens during initial negotiations.

In order to sign McNair, the Ravens would have to either trade a 2007 draft pick for him or wait until the Tennessee Titans release him. Although McNair's agent indicated the quarterback could be gone by today, it could take weeks to resolve because the teams aren't likely to come to quick agreement on an equitable trade, the source said.

"Stay tuned," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

The Ravens have the leverage, because the Titans have less than $500,000 in salary cap room. That means Tennessee can't sign a free agent or any of its draft picks until it reduces or sheds McNair's $23.46 million cap number.

The only incentive for the Ravens to make a trade is they would acquire McNair quicker, giving him more time to learn the offensive system.

If no trade agreement could be reached, the Ravens could wait for McNair's release, knowing the Titans would be forced to cut him over the next two months. Tennessee could potentially wait until training camp in late July to cut McNair - because that's when it will need to sign its draft picks - but a source said it would probably happen much sooner.

McNair's agent, Bus Cook, has made it clear that the Ravens are the quarterback's top choice once he reaches free agency.

"He'll be fine to move on," Cook told The Tennessean yesterday. "The Ravens are a very competitive team. He can take them to the Super Bowl. He is getting ready to go to Baltimore."

Cook did not return repeated calls from The Sun.

The Ravens and the Titans discussed a trade briefly yesterday, but weren't close to an agreement.

"Have I had a little dialogue? Yes," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Very little."

The chances that McNair would remain with the Titans are considered remote after their public conflict last month. The Titans barred McNair from working out on their property, fearing an injury would make them liable for his entire salary-cap number. The NFL Players Association filed a grievance earlier this month.

The NFLPA is trying to schedule an expedited hearing before an arbitrator, but Cook said the grievance asked for McNair's release. Talks on reworking McNair's deal have been nonexistent, but Titans general manager Floyd Reese said they have time to discuss it with the conclusion of the draft.

"Now I think it'll be everybody's duty to sit down and see if we can get something done," Reese told Tennessee reporters.

The Titans drafted University of Texas quarterback Vince Young with the No. 3 overall pick Saturday as McNair's successor.

Asked about the chances McNair would tutor Young this season, Titans coach Jeff Fisher said, "I think it's good. I don't have a crystal ball. I'd like to have Steve back. We just have to work the contract thing out right now."

Note -- Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan admitted he was frustrated by linebacker Ray Lewis, who complained about the team's defensive scheme and personnel. "As a coach, I could lie and tell you the standard thing about, `Oh, we'll let that fly under the rug,' but that's not how we operate," Ryan said. "It's unfortunate to hear any negative comment associated with our defense. Hopefully, we'll get Ray back with his teammates and we'll pull that rope in the same direction. This is a team game. It's about all 11 and not just one."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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