The market could be set as early as this week since Bailey's possible trade from the Washington Redskins to the Denver Broncos (reportedly for running back Clinton Portis) is contingent on his agreeing to a new contract. "I'm hopeful that they will pay attention to the new market that will be created by Champ Bailey and Charles Woodson," said Mitch Frankel, McAlister's agent. "I believe Chris and those two corners are all of a certain status. I'm hopeful now that they're going to be young corners doing new contracts that will help the Ravens see what Chris' true value is."
That value may include a signing bonus exceeding $15 million.
It's uncertain how much Bailey will receive in Denver, but he recently rejected the Redskins' offer of a nine-year, $55 million contract that included $14.75 million in bonuses.
Similarly, Woodson is believed to be asking the Oakland Raiders for a bonus in the $15 million to $18 million range. "If we can come to an equitable deal based on what the market shows us to be, then we'll do it," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "If we can't, one of the luxuries we have is that we can indeed absorb this in our cap situation."
McAlister, 26, was officially designated a non-exclusive franchise player, meaning he can solicit offers from other teams. The Ravens would have the right to match those offers to retain McAlister or accept two first-round draft choices in exchange for him. By using the tag, the Ravens can continue talks for a multi-year agreement until March 17. Under league rules, the Ravens would lose the right to use a franchise tag over the length of McAlister's new contract if they strike a deal between March 17 and July 14.
The prospects of coming to terms on a new deal have not been promising for almost a year.
The sides have been negotiating for 13 months, and Frankel said the last time progress was made on reaching an agreement was last March.
"Since that time, it's getting more difficult for us to reach an agreement, not easier," Frankel said. "I think that's a function of Chris playing at the level he played this season and truly establishing himself as one of the elite corners in the game. I think it's more difficult than a year ago because we really believe that Chris is among the top two or three corners in the league, if not the best, and should be compensated for it."
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
--The Ravens publicly put their support behind Jamal Lewis after the All-Pro running back was indicted on federal drug charges.
Coming off the second-highest rushing total in NFL history, Lewis is accused of trying to help a childhood friend buy cocaine in Atlanta during the summer of 2000. The Ravens, who went through similar legal troubles with linebacker Ray Lewis four years ago, have expressed optimism that Jamal Lewis will be cleared of the charges.
"We believe in due process, and Jamal will have his day in court," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. "There are two sides to every story. From what we know of the charges, these seem out of character for the Jamal we know."
--Ravens officials have talked with all 12 of their players who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on March 3. General manager Ozzie Newsome said the team could sign some of the players before they hit the free-agent market.
"We're thoroughly ready to get a deal done," Newsome said. "But they have the right to see what's out on the market."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Obviously the distractions and issues he's facing right now start to put life into perspective and will help him put his future into perspective. From our position, we think he's done a pretty good job at learning how to manage a lot of things since he's been a Baltimore Raven. He has spent less time being a star and more time being a professional." -- Running backs coach Matt Simon on the maturity of Jamal Lewis from a rookie to now.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
NEEDS/DRAFT PRIORITIES: Receiver (This has been a sore spot for years with the Ravens. They have missed in drafting Travis Taylor and Patrick Johnson high but they probably will take a hard look at receiver in the second round); Offensive line (The Ravens are showing some age on their physical front. It wouldn't be surprising if the team invests in a young tackle to groom). Secondary (The Ravens are set with two Pro Bowl selections in Ed Reed and Chris McAlister along with up-and-comer Gary Baxter. But this secondary could be an elite one with a solid free safety).
FRANCHISE PLAYER: CB Chris McAlister (tendered at $7.154M).
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (12): OT Orlando Brown; C Mike Flynn; LB Bernardo Harris; TE John Jones; CB Tom Knight; DE Riddick Parker; QB Chris Redman; PK Wade Richey; WR Marcus Robinson; PK Matt Stover; LB Adalius Thomas; QB Anthony Wright.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (8): OG Bennie Anderson; OT Damion Cook; DE Marques Douglas; LB Edgerton Hartwell; LS Joe Maese; C Casey Rabach; FB Alan Ricard; CB Raymond Walls.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS (3): S Will Demps; WR Randy Hymes; DE Ma'ake Kemoeatu.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: None.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: None.
PLAYERS LOST: None.
MEDICAL WATCH: Trainer Bill Tessendorf said linebacker Ray Lewis' right shoulder was examined this week, and Tessendorf referred to the findings as "positive."
Lewis was expected to have minor surgery on the shoulder. He is scheduled to undergo additional testing.
If surgery is required, he would not be able to do any heavy lifting for four to six weeks after the operation but should be able to participate in all of the team's minicamps.