Ravens might wait on McNair

Trade talks quiet

QB could earn his release May 16

May 03, 2006|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

The Ravens might suspend further trade talks with the Tennessee Titans, knowing there is a possibility that quarterback Steve McNair could become a free agent in a couple of weeks.

A hearing between the NFL players union and the Titans is set for May 16, when an arbitrator will decide if the team breached its contract with McNair by barring him from working out at its facility.

The union contends that the Titans must allow the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback into the training complex or release him.

Asked about the chances that McNair could gain his release from the hearing, NFL Players Association general counsel Richard Berthelsen said: "We have to wait and see. It's possible that the arbitrator could say the Titans have the obligation to employ him while he's under contract and, if they don't wish to comply with their agreement with him, they ought to allow him to go elsewhere."

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome declined to comment when asked if this grievance factored into the trade talks with the Titans.

The teams have not contacted each other since Sunday.

Winning his release would seem to be the fastest way for McNair to become a Raven.

After the Ravens and Tennessee were unable to strike a deal during last weekend's draft, Titans general manager Floyd Reese said the value of picks in the 2007 draft has gone up, insinuating that McNair could only be had now for a first-day pick.

The Ravens offered a fifth-round pick for McNair on Sunday, but the Titans wanted nothing lower than a fourth.

A league source said Tennessee is prepared to hold off on releasing McNair until a week before training camp begins in late July if it doesn't receive an improved trade offer from the Ravens.

The Titans, who have less than $500,000 in salary cap room, wouldn't need to free themselves of McNair's $23.46 million cap number until they had to sign their draft picks.

The Ravens would prefer to acquire McNair as quickly as possible to give him more time to learn the offensive system.

The McNair-Titans dispute began April 3, when the team wouldn't allow the 11-year veteran into its training facility.

The Titans say they are within their legal rights to protect themselves in the event of an on-site injury, which would make the team liable for McNair's hefty cap number.

McNair and the NFLPA contend this is a violation of his contract and the collective bargaining agreement, which requires players to take part in teams' offseason conditioning programs and remain in good physical shape.

Titans officials have directed McNair toward a local trainer and told him they would pay him the $110 per day that players receive in the offseason program.

The grievance will be heard in Nashville, Tenn., by John Feerick, an arbitrator from New York.

Berthelsen said the union dealt with the same matter nearly 20 years ago, when the Oakland Raiders banned running back Steve Smith from working out at their complex because they were looking to trade him. Smith won his grievance to re-enter the facility.

"They can't be the exclusive employer of Steve McNair without providing him employment," Berthelsen said. "He should have the right to either be with his teammates preparing for the season or he should be allowed to do the same for another club."

NOTE -- WBAL Radio set its Ravens announcing team for the 2006 season yesterday, naming former Ravens defensive end Rob Burnett and ex-Colt Stan White as analysts. In January, WBAL (1090 AM) announced that Channel 11 sports anchor Gerry Sandusky would be the play-by-play man. WBAL and 98 Rock (97.9 FM) will carry Ravens games for the first time this season. Burnett has never been a broadcast game analyst. Station manager and vice president Jeff Beauchamp said the station will hire a former NFL official to help explain calls on the field and plans to use various "celebrity sideline reporters" during games. WBAL's sports talk host, Steve Davis, will handle the pre- and post-game shows.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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