Billick plays down trade rumors

OWINGS MILLS – Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick played down speculation regarding trade rumors after the team was linked to controversial San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Terrell Owens in published reports.<br><br> Because his agent missed a deadline to file required paperwork to void the final three years of his contract, Owens isn't an unrestricted free agent and remains under contract with the 49ers. <br>

San Francisco doesn't want Owens back and will likely try to trade him pending the outcome of a grievance.

"We're not going to comment on hypotheticals because they're limitless," Billick said. "Trades very rarely happen. You're talking about people who are speculating as opposed to what's real."

Two days before the onset of the veteran signing period, Billick predicted that the Ravens will not set the market value for bidding on free agents despite their advantageous salary-cap position. 

The Ravens will continue to try to retain their own free agents after signing center Mike Flynn to a five-year, $11.25 million deal on Monday.

That group includes kicker Matt Stover, receiver Marcus Robinson, offensive tackle Orlando Brown and outside linebacker Adalius Thomas.

"Signing our own is a priority," Billick said. "I don't know that we're going to be a major player in the early market. 

"We'll let the market define itself a little bit before we act. A lot of it has to do with who's out there. That market has changed dramatically."

The receiver market has shrunken because of paperwork mix-ups involving Owens and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Dennis Northcutt. Seattle Seahawks receiver Darrell Jackson, who caught 68 passes for 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns last season after an early bout with dropped passes, is now regarded as the top unrestricted free agent wideout.

The Tennessee Titans have sound protection against losing restricted free agent receiver Justin McCareins after assigning him the middle tender, which carries first-round compensation if he signs with another team and the Titans opted not to match.

Robinson's agent, Ken Sarnoff, said he has had several discussions with Baltimore about a new deal.

"There's nothing imminent with Baltimore," Sarnoff said. "We've certainly had some discussions. He loved playing in Baltimore, but we just have to see how it's going to go."

Meanwhile, Billick said the organization plans to comment publicly today on Pro Bowl running back Jamal Lewis' arrest on federal drug conspiracy charges last week in Atlanta.

Lewis plead not guilty to charges that, if he's convicted of, could carry 10 years to life. The reigning NFL offensive player of the year has the same attorney, Ed Garland, that successfully represented Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis in 2000 in a murder trial where the charges were dropped. Lewis plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice.

"We have a lot of collective experience in this organization and we plan on addressing this situation," Billick said. "We need to be on the record and we needed to wait until it was the appropriate time."

Last Thursday when Lewis was indicted, general manager Ozzie Newsome made a statement where he said: "There are two sides to every story. From what we know of these charges, they seem out of character with the Jamal we know."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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