If trade talks restart, McNair's value is key

Delay of ruling on QB could spur Ravens

May 23, 2006|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

There has been speculation around the NFL that delaying the decision in Steve McNair's grievance until June 1 could restart trade talks between the Ravens and the Tennessee Titans.

If the sides end nearly a month of silence, the next hurdle would be determining the value of McNair, a quarterback who is two years removed from being the league's co-Most Valuable Player but only might have a few more seasons left in him.

The Ravens' offer of a fifth-round pick was turned down on the second day of the draft. Titans general manager Floyd Reese has since insinuated that his previous demand of a fourth-rounder has gone up.

The consensus among former NFL executives is McNair only merits a second-day draft pick, a selection ranging from a fourth- to a sixth-round selection.

"If [the Titans] get more than a fourth-round pick, they ought to give Reese a big raise," said Gil Brandt, a former Dallas Cowboys executive and now a senior analyst for the NFL's Web site. "People are smart enough to know that he is going to be released unless they can redo his contract. There's no purpose to trade and give up the store for that guy."

Some observers expect the McNair situation to pan out like the one involving quarterback Joey Harrington.

The Detroit Lions received a conditional sixth-round pick from the Miami Dolphins for Harrington on May 12. That selection escalates to a fifth-round choice if Harrington's playing time reaches a designated amount of games.

A conditional pick - one that increases based on playing time, amount of wins or a playoff appearance - could be the best way to bridge the gap between the Ravens and the Titans.

The Ravens want to obtain McNair as soon as possible to integrate him into their offensive system. The Titans need to unload McNair's $23.46 million salary cap number by late July so they can sign their draft picks.

"There are different ways to approach it. It doesn't always have to be a straight draft pick," said Rick Spielman, the former Dolphins general manager who now works at ESPN. "There might be a way where both teams can protect themselves."

Like the Titans, Lions president Matt Millen initially wanted a third- or fourth-round pick for his quarterback. But after a month of stalled talks, Millen increasingly lost leverage because he needed to release Harrington by June 15 to avoid paying him a $4 million roster bonus.

With Tennessee facing a similar deadline, Brandt sees the wait working in the Ravens' favor. If the Titans keep McNair until July, they might face a situation where they have to accept any offer from the Ravens or release him for nothing.

"They're dealing with a guy who's pretty smart in [Ravens general manager] Ozzie Newsome," Brandt said. "The only repercussion is [the Titans] trade him to someone else."

No other team has formally expressed interest in McNair, a two-time Pro Bowl quarterback who turned 33 this offseason. The Ravens reportedly have an agreement in principle with McNair after gaining permission to talk to him a month ago.

If - or when - the Ravens acquire McNair, Spielman said it would re-establish them as a playoff contender.

"Looking at Baltimore's situation, I would do it," he said. "There are still questions about [Kyle] Boller, and they have a lot of weapons on offense. And they are trying to keep up with Cincinnati and the Super Bowl champions in their division."

Former Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf said McNair might not be the final piece for the Ravens' championship puzzle, but he could be the most important one.

"My view is tainted because I believe in the quarterback," said Wolf, who traded a first-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons for Brett Favre in 1992. "I'm from that school that if you don't have one, you're not going to win. It's the one thing that you have to go do. And you have to keep doing it until you get the guy you want."

Note -- The Ravens are trying to work out another scrimmage with the Washington Redskins that will be held at the end of the first week of training camp. It would be played at FedEx Field because the Ravens hosted the event last year.jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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