Is Warren Sapp in Ravens' plans?

OWINGS MILLS – The latest chant of the chorus regarding how the Baltimore Ravens might spend their money has elicited the name of defensive tackle Warren Sapp.<br> <br> Like San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Terrell Owens, Sapp has been linked to the Ravens as a potential free agent target.<br> <br>

Most of the published reports emphasize the connections and conversations between Sapp, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' seven-time Pro Bowl selection, and Ravens All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis, a former University of Miami teammate.

Sapp stirred the pot further in an interview with the NFL Network this week.

"Ray Lewis called me," Sapp said. "I told him, ‘What are we gonna do, cut the deal today?' He said, ‘You right, you right.' I said, ‘You excited right now, I'm excited, and it's an exciting time for everybody. Let's just calm down and see what happens.' 

"It looks like a very intriguing situation, but with all things being equal, I am telling you, I pick the red and pewter."

The Bucs may not be able to afford Sapp. And it remains a question mark whether Baltimore wants to acquire an older player with a reputation for being moody.

Baltimore and Tampa Bay have divergent salary-cap situations.

The Bucs have one of the worst payroll problems in football. 

Baltimore reportedly leads the NFL with roughly $24 million underneath the projected $78.7 million league limit for player salaries.

When it's a poorly-kept secret how much money you have available to spend, everyone is bound to make their sales pitch. 

Plus, Lewis has been an aggressive recruiter, talking the Ravens up to players like Sapp and Owens.

He doesn't sign the checks, though. And he doesn't run the Ravens' personnel department. General manager Ozzie Newsome does.

Do the Ravens ultimately want to look at the 31-year-old Sapp, or controversial wideouts like Keyshawn Johnson and Owens?

Or do they prefer a course where younger, unrestricted free agents like Cleveland wide receiver Dennis Northcutt, Seattle wideout Darrell Jackson, or Titans restricted free agent receiver Justin McCareins, or New York Giants defensive lineman Cornelius Griffin are pursued?
The Ravens aren't saying and technically can't say anything specific about players because of tampering rules that prohibit executives and coaches from making public comments on prospective free agents during this period.

The team has stressed several times that it's primarily interested in retaining its own free agents rather than engaging in high-profile, splashy signings.

Sapp has 398 career tackles and 77 sacks, but hasn't posted double-figures in sacks since the 2000 campaign when he collected a career-high 16 ½.

Last season, he recorded five sacks and 43 tackles with two touchdown catches.

Tampa Bay can't use the franchise tag to retain Sapp because it already expended the designation on former lineman Chidi Ahanotu.

Tampa Bay general manager Bruce Allen will meet with Sapp's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis next week, according to the St. Petersburg Times, which has declared the Ravens as the frontrunner for Sapp's services.

Rosenhaus didn't return a telephone call Friday seeking comment.

Sapp said there has been a lot of dialogue with the Bucs, but no impending deal.

"Drew calls me whenever he and Bruce Allen have a conversation," Sapp said. "If they talk at the Senior Bowl, yeah, we covet Warren, we want him back. He calls me and says Bruce wants me back. 

"Of course, Bruce said he wants me back. What's Bruce supposed to say, we don't want him back, so I can pack my stuff and I can have this mean aggressive attitude about leaving, no."
When Sapp was asked by the NFL Network if he would like to play for Tampa Bay next year, if all things were equal, he replied: "I die a Buc."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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