Ravens, Boller at an impasse

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick remains guardedly optimistic regarding the possibility of completing negotiations with the club's pair of first-round picks before training camp begins. The agent for rookie quarterback Kyle Boller doesn't share Billick's optimism for his client at this point after receiving an initial contract proposal Tuesday afternoon from Ravens chief negotiator Pat Moriarty.

Mike Sullivan noted that the Ravens are unwilling to consider modeling a framework based upon the contract New York Jets quarterback Chad Pennington inked as the 18th pick in 2000, or include lucrative escalator clauses similar to what Washington Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey received a year ago as the 32nd pick of the first round.

"They've rejected our entire concept based on the Pennington contract," said Sullivan, whose client was drafted 19th overall after the Ravens traded next year's first-round pick and this year's second-round selection to the New England Patriots. "They're asking him to take a significant decrease in the signing bonus offered to last year's pick and the escalator clauses are far less than what Ramsey received let alone Pennington."

Billick cautioned that a holdout situation would preclude Boller from competing with incumbent Chris Redman to be under center for the Ravens in the season-opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"It will go to the 11th hour," said Billick in reference to getting outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and Boller signed to contracts before the team begins practice Monday at McDaniel College. "I have a great deal of faith in both their agents. I think they're good people that understand the priorities. "They will do everything they can, but they have to do what's in their client's best interests. We just have to let the business part run its course."

According to NFL Players Association figures, Pennington signed a five-year contract worth roughly $6.5 million. It includes incentives that could earn him as much as $23 million.

Pennington, who was supposed to make $385,000 in 2003, will get bumped up to at least $5.2 million in salary this year. The amount of the increase is based on Pennington taking the majority of the snaps along with various individual and team incentive categories.

A year ago, Ramsey held out, was nearly traded to the Bears and Redskins coach Steve Spurrier said he was eliminated from consideration for the starting job.

Ramsey eventually started after signing a five-year contract for $5.7 million with a signing bonus of $3.1 million along with escalator clauses that could increase the annual salaries between $2.5 and $3 million per year and boost the deal's total value to roughly $15 million.

As for the signing bonus Sullivan referred to, the 19th overall pick of last year, Denver Broncos wide receiver Ashley Lelie signed for $3.3 million.

Billick doesn't want a repeat of last year's holdout by safety Ed Reed, although Reed still established himself as a starter after missing the first week of camp.

If Boller is going to contends with Redman, a holdout is going to be counterproductive to that goal, Billick said.

"It's not a veiled threat," Billick said. "We've said this is an open competition. For a rookie to start in the opener against Pittsburgh is ambitious at best, but we've committed to giving him that kind of opportunity. "To think that a rookie could come in and do that missing any amount of camp, it's hard to believe. It just puts you a step behind and it's hard to catch up."

Suggs' agent, Gary Wichard, didn't return telephone calls.

Jack Reale, the agent for running back Musa Smith, reported steady progress on contract discussions for the club's third-round pick. Besides Reed, outside linebacker Peter Boulware, cornerback Duane Starks and wide receiver Travis Taylor missed portions of their rookie training camps as first-round holdouts.

"We saw it with Ed Reed last year," Billick said. "Had Ed been in camp on time, we might have won a couple of those close games at the beginning of the year. "In terms of signings, Ozzie and Pat are on top of that so I imagine they're going to get it done. Many times, you go into camp waiting those last couple of hours seeing who's going to be there."

NOTE: The Ravens introduced Tony Siragusa, the wise-cracking defensive tackle from the Super Bowl squad, as a color analyst for their preseason games on FOX-TV along with Dick Stockton and Daryl Johnston.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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