Ravens might be have an eye on Owens

<b>Bonus Free Article - subscribe to the site and read this stuff every day!</b><br>OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens' fly pattern into free agency today might include listening to a sales pitch from the agent for San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Terrell Owens.

Owens' agent, Dave Joseph, has been granted permission by 49ers general manager Terry Donahue to seek a trade over the next three days. A missed deadline to void the final three years of Owens' deal, or a colossal memory lapse, left the controversial Pro Bowl receiver under contract instead of an unrestricted free agent. 

The Ravens have been linked to Owens with the potential asking price of a second or a third-round draft pick as compensation. Baltimore inside inebacker Ed Hartwell won't be part of any proposed deal.

Owens has said he's interested in playing for the Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons.

"Our heads are not in the sand," Newsome said. "My head is not in the sand. We realize the importance, throughout this organization, of us getting another quality receiver to go with our offense. 

"We're going to exhaust all of our resources to be able to do that."

Mindful of league tampering rules, the Ravens declined to outline their potential interest in Owens, or other top wide receivers like Seattle Seahawks unrestricted free agent Darrell Jackson. The Raven are likely to be cautious to not overspend.

"Terrell Owens is a San Francisco 49er," said Newsome, who pursued David Boston last winter before the troubled wideout signed with the San Diego Chargers.

The Ravens' top priority is to upgrade their receiving corps, particularly after their passing game was the worst in the league last season.

The AFC North champions managed to win their first division title despite averaging only 147.7 passing yards per contest with rookie quarterback Kyle Boller and veteran Anthony Wright combining for a 10-6 mark.

Owens, 30, has torched his bridges with the 49ers. And he's due to earn $17.7 million in base salary over the remaining three years of his contract, which would likely be assumed by his new employer, including $5.3 million this year, $5.9 million in 2005 and $6.5 million in 2006.

"I think it's very improbable that he would be back," Donahue told Bay Area reporters Tuesday. "Both parties have agreed to pursue a trade very actively in the next 72 hours."

Newsome emphasized the team's desire to retain its own unrestricted free agents like kicker Matt Stover, quarterback Anthony Wright, receiver Marcus Robinson and offensive tackle Orlando Brown while attempting to negotiate a long-term contract extension for franchise player Chris McAlister

The Ravens are unlikely to have a player visit the training complex immediately. Newsome said he'll likely be sleeping at midnight instead of calling free agents.

Newsome said the team is still talking with McAlister's agent, and will try to set up a meeting soon between him and director of football administration Pat Moriarty.

"He can sign the tender and play for it, but Chris, right now, wants a long-term deal, just as we want a long-term deal," Newsome said.

Minus McAlister's salary, the Ravens still have $16.9 million underneath the NFL salary-cap limit of $80.5 million. 

The Minnesota Vikings lead the league with $33.3 million to spend followed by the Philadelphia Eagles ($27.84 million), Arizona Cardinals ($19.66 million), New Orleans Saints ($18.57 million) Ravens and Dallas Cowboys ($16.8 million).

How receptive is Wright to returning as a backup behind Boller, whom Baltimore has invested two first-round draft picks and millions of dollars.

"Anthony doesn't think of himself as a No. 2," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "If he does, Anthony's not the guy I want. Anthony also understands there's a business side to it. Anthony, I know, wants to be here. 

"We want to make that work, but until that is actually done we have to be very careful."

Robinson may be inclined to shop after a resurgent second half of the season when he caught a team-high six touchdown catches. The absence of Owens and Cleveland receiver Dennis Northcutt, also because of a paperwork issue, from the market may boost Robinson's stock.

"Marcus would like to be back in Baltimore, but it doesn't hurt to listen and see what's out there," agent Ken Sarnoff said.

The Ravens might not be able to retain outside linebacker Adalius Thomas considering the significant investment it has already made at linebacker in Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs.

If Thomas departs, the team would likely seek another special-teams ace as a replacement.

Brown emphasized he wanted to return Tuesday when he visited the team's training complex.

"It's up to them, it's not up to me," Brown said. "I want to come back and they know that. I don't know how it's going."

The Miami Dolphins might have some interest in Baltimore restricted free agent guard Bennie Anderson. The Ravens have the right of first refusal.

Baltimore has been mentioned as a potential destination for Tampa Bay defensive tackle Warren Sapp, whom linebacker Ray Lewis has recruited along with Owens.

It's unlikely that Baltimore will make a major splash in the market barring a trade for Owens.

"Necessity is a very poor negotiator," Billick said. "As frustrating as it is to want to get that guy, if it's not the right deal and it's going to catch up to you in the long run, we've shown that discipline to not follow that cheese."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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