Heir McNair

Titans trade Pro Bowl quarterback to Ravens

Oft-injured star must pass physical to complete the long-delayed deal

June 08, 2006|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

The Tennessee Titans' Steve McNair is expected to become the Ravens' new starting quarterback today, a critical turning point for a team under siege.

After enduring months of turmoil - from an underachieving 6-10 season to coach Brian Billick's being on the hot seat to linebacker Ray Lewis' public criticism of the team - the Ravens are on the brink of acquiring the most decorated quarterback in franchise history.

The deal would become official today once he passes a physical examination administered by Ravens doctors. Results will not be complete until this morning, but team sources said there are "absolutely" no concerns about McNair's health despite an injury-filled career.

"I think this team, right now, has a great chance at getting back to the Super Bowl, and that's what you want to be a part of," said McNair, who arrived at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport about 6 p.m. yesterday, wearing a matching gray shirt and slacks as well as a broad smile.

"I've gone to the Super Bowl, but you want to win it. That's why my decision was so easy to come here and be a part of this team. They have the caliber of team to make it to the Super Bowl for the next couple of years."

The Ravens would send a 2007 fourth-round draft pick to the Titans for McNair, a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback and the NFL's co-Most Valuable Player in 2003.

Ravens officials plan to introduce McNair at a news conference today and expect him to suit up for the team's final minicamp next week.

Yesterday will be remembered as one of the most emotional afternoons in any Ravens offseason.

It began with Lewis expressing regret over his comments about some of his teammates and venting his frustration over losing. It ended with the Ravens filling a decade-long void at quarterback with a player long respected by the team.

"He's a warrior," Lewis said. "I don't know what person wouldn't like a warrior on his ballclub."

The trade ends a long wait for the Ravens, who had targeted McNair since January.

The Ravens reached an agreement in principle on a five-year contract with McNair at the end of April, when they received permission from the Titans to speak to him. McNair, 33, will receive an $11 million signing bonus and earn $1 million in base salary this season.

Known for his strong arm and will, McNair is widely considered to be the pivotal addition that turns the Ravens from a last-place club into a playoff team. He will replace former first-round pick Kyle Boller, who has been inconsistent during his three-year career.

"I think [McNair] gives us leadership that we need. He's a competitor," said Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle, who played with McNair for seven seasons in Tennessee. "Everybody knows we definitely underachieved, going 6-10 with the type of talent we've got. I don't think we can have a season like we had last year. Having him, it definitely won't happen again.

"In the players' mind, this would put us over the top."

The agreement between the Ravens and Titans ended a 38-day stalemate in trade talks. Tennessee eventually accepted the offer that the Ravens have had on the table for four weeks, a Ravens source said.

During that time, McNair won a grievance against the Titans to return to their training facility last week but was turned away again Monday when the team indicated that he needed to take another physical.

According to a Ravens source, agent Bus Cook told Titans general manager Floyd Reese yesterday that the team had no shot at retaining McNair and asked whether a deal could be worked out with the Ravens. Tennessee is only $112,000 under the NFL salary cap and needed McNair to restructure his contact or leave the team in order to have enough money to sign its draft picks. By trading McNair, the team gains $9 million in salary cap room.

By the end of yesterday's practice, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome received a call from Reese and the teams quickly agreed on a trade.

"It's been inevitable," Cook said. "Economically, Tennessee was strapped and was incapable of giving what the Ravens could. The Ravens' determination in setting his market value was more than what Tennessee could have ever offered."

McNair had spent his entire 11-year career with the Titans franchise after being the third selection overall in the 1995 draft by the then-Houston Oilers.

During the 1999 season, McNair guided Tennessee to the Super Bowl, losing to the St. Louis Rams, and he shared the league's MVP award with Peyton Manning in 2003. McNair was a Pro Bowl selection in 2000, 2003 and 2005.

Since McNair took over as the Titans' full-time starter in 1997, the Ravens have had 13 starting quarterbacks, including 10 in the Billick era (1999 to present).

"He definitely brings some stability to the quarterback position," said tight end Todd Heap, who played with McNair in the Pro Bowl.

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