Frank Sanders visits Ravens

OWINGS MILLS -- In an aborted search for a dynamic receiving threat, the Baltimore Ravens flirted with blue-chipper David Boston. While the talented and trouble-prone former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver ultimately signed with the San Diego Chargers, the Ravens are in contention for a less combustible free agent. Veteran receiver Frank Sanders, who built a reputation for reliability opposite Boston in Arizona, visited the Ravens on Friday and left without signing a contract.

By all indications, though, adding Sanders may fit both parties' purposes.

The Ravens are seeking leadership and production to upgrade an inexperienced receiving corps that struggled last season.

As an unrestricted free agent whom Arizona hasn't offered a contract, Sanders, 30, is looking for a job after ending last season on injured reserve with a foot injury.

Plus, former Baltimore cornerback Duane Starks' recommendation carries weight with Sanders, who's definitely hungry to win after eight years with the moribund Cardinals.

"When I come here, I just want to be a blessing to the organization," said Sanders, who added that he wanted to wrap up negotiations by April. "I'm coming with the desire to start. I'm not coming to be a star. I'm coming to be a part of a winning team.

"I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. It's a good organization. It speaks for itself."

Sanders said his physical with the Ravens didn't indicate any further issues with his foot. The former Auburn star said he recently visited the Carolina Panthers, who recently signed receivers Kevin Dyson and Ricky Proehl.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome emphasized that discussions with Sanders' agents, Eugene Parker and Roosevelt Barnes, haven't begun yet.

"It's up to Frank whether Frank wants to be a Raven or not," said Newsome, who declined to speculate about the likelihood of a multi-year contract. "If Frank wants to be a Raven then, once we enter into negotiations, we'll do it."

The positives involving Sanders are his size at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, sound hands and experience.

Sanders' career totals of 493 receptions, 6,579 yards along with 24 touchdowns ranks him third and fifth for catches and yards, respectively, in the Cardinals' record book.

Between 1997 and 1999, no NFL receiver totaled more third-down receptions than Sanders' 93 catches in that category.

During his rookie season in 1995, Sanders worked with Ravens offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh, who was then the Cardinals' quarterbacks coach.

"I still love the inside and I expressed that to Matt Cavanaugh," Sanders said. "I still enjoy working the inside slot. They're looking for someone to do that and I'm definitely up to the challenge."

The potential drawbacks: Age, injuries and Sanders' general downward trend in production since catching a career-high 89 passes for 1,145 yards and three touchdowns as a Pro Bowl alternate in 1998.

Since then, Sanders has dipped progressively to 79 catches for 954 yards in 1999, 54 catches for 749 yards and six touchdowns in 2000 and 41 catches for 618 yards in 2001.

Prior to the nagging foot problem that ended his season with four games left, Sanders caught 34 passes for 400 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 11.8 yards per reception and had a long reception of 37 yards.

Sanders' best stretch of games came midway through last year with six receptions for 76 yards against the San Francisco 49ers, six catches for 67 yards against the St. Louis Rams and five catches for 62 yards against the Seattle Seahawks.

Sanders expressed a desire to start, but said he would also be interested in a complementary role where he mentors younger players like Travis Taylor. That's a familiar situation for him after helping to tutor Boston, MarTay Jenkins and several others in Arizona

"I'm looking for a team that wants Frank Sanders and what he brings to the table," Sanders said. "They feel they have guys with great potential and just need a little bit of a leader. I understand every person on the field has a role and I'll know my role when I get here."

NOTES: The Ravens' four-year contract with outside linebacker Cornell Brown includes base salaries of $600,000 in 2003, $660,000 in 2004, $665,000 in 2005 and $670,000 in 2006, according to NFL Players Association figures. That $2.595 million total doesn't include his signing bonus, which agent Joel Segal declined to disclose. Offensive tackle Ethan Brooks' two-year pact includes base salaries of $600,000 and $650,000 and includes a $250,000 signing bonus. Fullback and special teams player Harold Morrow's three-year contract has base salaries of $655,000, $660,000 and $665,000.

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