Ravens part ways with McCrary, sign three picks

OWINGS MILLS -The tenure of former Pro Bowl defensive end Michael McCrary with the Baltimore Ravens ended Wednesday when the club terminated his contract after six seasons. It's a procedural move undertaken to save on McCrary's $3 million salary and a precursor to the veteran pass rusher's impending retirement announcement forced by a chronic knee condition, McCrary's agent confirmed.

The Ravens are planning a formal press conference for McCrary, who was traveling to Arizona, and will eventually induct him into the club's Ring of Honor.

Meanwhile, the Ravens reached agreements in principle to three-year contracts with running back Musa Smith (3rd round), fullback Ovie Mughelli (4th round) and offensive tackle Tony Pashos (5th round) to deals with total values of $1.415 million, $1.148 million and nearly $1 million, respectively.

That leaves the club with six remaining picks, including first-round picks Terrell Suggs and Kyle Boller, to come to terms with before training camp begins on Monday at McDaniel College.

There was no progress made on the Boller negotiation, which has been characterized by a disagreement over signing bonus and escalator clauses. A holdout situation could be imminent.

An undersized end at 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, McCrary, 33, played for a decade and compiled 71 sacks and two Pro Bowl selections as he gained a reputation for being a relentless technician. However, he incurred severe damage to his knees in the process and ended last year on injured reserve in December.

"I think he has an appreciation and understands that from a business standpoint we have to do what we need to do," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "I don't mean to be evasive on it, but I kind of know the way this is going to go down, but that's for Michael to say. He has a right to declare that himself."

A former seventh-round pick from Wake Forest, McCrary generated 14.5 sacks in 1998, 11.5 in 1999 and six sacks during the playoffs of the Super Bowl championship season.

McCrary picked up two sacks and forced a fumble in the Ravens' 34-7 win over the Giants and had 7.5 sacks in 2001 in 10 games before undergoing season-ending knee surgery.

"Mike's disappointed because he still wants to play, but his knees are bone on bone," said Tony Agnone, McCrary's agent. "The mind is willing, but the body is not. He's in bad shape. This is the prudent thing to do. He's going to have a hard time walking."

Even last season when he was clearly limited, McCrary was able to sack Brian Griese twice in a win over the Broncos and continually pressured Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell as he threw three interceptions. Against the Jaguars, McCrary went over his prescribed limit of 40 plays by refusing to leave the game.

"We've been blessed with a lot of good defensive ends, but Mike was by far the most tenacious," Agnone said. "I would say, literally, he's a guy that just wouldn't quit on anything."

Agnone indicated that McCrary is interested in coaching, but is unlikely to be able to meet the physical requirements of the job: standing on his feet for long periods of time at practice.

"Unfortunately, he's going to be limited," Agnone said. "That's a shame because I think he would be a phenomenal coach."

NOTES: Expected to compete with Chester Taylor to be Jamal Lewis' primary backup after rushing for 2,202 career yards and 19 touchdowns at Georgia, Smith received a signing bonus of $505,000.

A former Wake Forest fullback who will back up Alan Ricard, Mughelli signed for $238,000.

Under the slotting principle Pashos, the 173rd overall selection, likely received a signing bonus close to the $80,000 that DeMarcus Faggins received last year from the Texans.

All three received minimum base salaries of $225,000, $305,000 and $380,000 for the first three years of their contracts.

Billick said he remained optimistic that the club will be able to sign Suggs and Boller before camp begins Monday at McDaniel College.

"It's a little bit unique to have two first-round choices," he said. "That changes the dynamic a little bit. We do fair contracts and they have two good agents so that's what my optimism is based on."

NOTE: The Ravens released undrafted rookie running back John Tippins.

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