Ravens' negotiating pace the norm around the NFL

OWINGS MILLS - The Baltimore Ravens' negotiating pace for draft picks isn't the exception. It marks the prevailing rule around a National Football League deterred by agents' reluctance to set the market value for their rookie clients and a flat rookie pool allotment. A few weeks before training camp begins at McDaniel College none of the Ravens' 11 draft selections are under contract, including first-round picks Terrell Suggs and Kyle Boller.

That's the norm, though, for Baltimore, which traditionally signs its draft choices right before camp.

"We've started," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "We've had conversations with everybody, but to this point we have not entered into an agreement with anyone."

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, the first overall pick of the draft, is the lone first-round selection to consummate a deal. Only one second-round pick had signed as of Friday afternoon. A few third-round picks have agreed to terms.

The flat rookie pool means agents will have to be more creative than usual in negotiations to obtain small increases, including the areas of signing bonus and incentive clauses.

Rookie salaries throughout the league are slotted roughly according to where the player was picked and what the player received at that spot in the previous season.

In the Ravens' case, they have the salary cap room to sign their picks with reportedly $4.88 million underneath the league limit of $75.007 million.

Newsome said he expects talks to progress as chief negotiator Pat Moriarty and director of personnel Phil Savage continue to hold discussions with agents.

Meanwhile, the Ravens have two remaining issues with veteran players.

First, franchise player Chris McAlister has yet to sign his one-year tender of $5.962 million, which is the average of the top five salaries at the cornerback position.

Talks for a long-term contract with McAlister were effectively suspended by the league rule that penalizes clubs with the loss of the right to assign the franchise tag to any player for the entire length of a new deal if a deal is reached between March 15 and July 15.

"With Chris to this point we expect him to sign the tender and to be at training camp," Newsome said. "Once that happens, we'll take the next step if his parties want to do that.

"Right now, the only thing we're concerned about is him signing the tender and being at training camp, which is what we've been told he's going to do."

As for veteran defensive end Michael McCrary, who has suffered significant knee damage over the course of his career and ended last season on injured reserve, he has been mulling over whether to retire, mount a comeback or become an assistant coach.

Newsome said no announcement is imminent, but a decision from the former Pro Bowler is anticipated before camp starts.

"It will be addressed before training camp," Newsome said. "I've had several conversations with Mike, including one today."

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