Ravens not setting early market

OWINGS MILLS – Gentlemen, start your checkbooks.<br><br> The National Football League resembled a Wall Street trading floor with teams conducting bidding wars for talent as several lucrative contracts were struck Wednesday during the first day of the veteran signing period. <br>

Prominent among football teams holding an advantageous salary-cap position who weren't spending money: the Baltimore Ravens.

Baltimore spoke to the representatives for several free agents, but, as usual, opted against defining the market value.

"Between now and midnight, we probably won't sign anybody," said Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome, whose team reportedly has $16.9 million underneath the league's $80.5 million salary cap.

The Ravens are searching for a wide receiver to upgrade the lowest-ranked passing offense in the league. Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Darrell Jackson is the top unrestricted free agent at his position available.

"We've had discussions with Baltimore," said Brian Mooney, Jackson's agent, from Detroit where Jackson will meet with the Lions today. "Things could happen there, but we have to get a little more in-depth. I had a conversation with Ozzie Newsome and we plan to re-contact each other. There's no visit set up yet."

Jackson finished last season with 68 receptions for 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns last season after an early bout with dropped passes.

No players visited the Ravens' training complex Wednesday, and Newsome said none are likely to visit today. He declined to specify whom he's interested in, though.

"I've been fielding a lot of calls from agents to see if we have interest in their players," Newsome said. "I have no reason to go public with who we're interested in to give the player leverage and other teams an opportunity to jump ahead of us. I'm not going to give 31 other clubs the benefit of Baltimore's evaluations."

The agent for San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Terrell Owens has been authorized by 49ers general manager Terry Donahue to seek a trade for the disgruntled Pro Bowl selection over the next few days. Owens' agent, Dave Joseph, didn't return a telephone call seeking comment.

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

"I'm sure his guy will be calling since we were supposedly one team that was at the top of his list, but that will be a process," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. 

Owens, 30, missed a deadline to void the final three years of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent, which stands pending a grievance. He caught 80 passes for 1,102 yards and nine touchdowns last season.

"I can't talk about Terrell Owens because he belongs to the San Francisco 49ers," Newsome said. "If there's a player that's a free agent or by trade that we think we can better our team with, we're interested in him."

Owens could reportedly be acquired for a second- or a third-round draft pick.

Whomever trades for Owens would assume his contract without owing him a large signing bonus. He's due to make $5.3 million in base salary next season, $5.9 million in 2005 and $6.5 million.

Meanwhile, Newsome said the team continues to negotiate with four or five of their own unrestricted free agents, a group that likely includes kicker Matt Stover, receiver Marcus Robinson, offensive tackle Orlando Brown, kickoff specialist Wade Richey and quarterback Anthony Wright. Outside linebacker Adalius Thomas may look elsewhere for a starting job and a new contract.

"We've had dialogue with the agents and they've indicated that they could make some trips," Newsome said. "We are starting to talk about visits with other free agents, too."

Defensive end Jevon Kearse got a $16 million signing bonus from the Philadelphia Eagles. Cornelius Griffin got $8.3 million from the Washington Redskins. And offensive tackle Todd Wade received $10 million in a five-year, $25 million deal from the Houston Texans, according to published reports.

"I think everybody wants us to get into the bidding because that forces other teams, maybe recognizing our cap situation, to overpay somebody," Billick said. "That's not what we do."

NOTE: Newsome said that he hasn't had a chance to examine the seven-year, $63 million contract that cornerback Champ Bailey signed with the Denver Broncos that reportedly includes an $18 million signing bonus.

However, he said that deal could be helpful as the team tries to forge a long-term extension with cornerback Chris McAlister, the teams' franchise player.

"That's a recent cornerback contract, which is good," Newsome said. "The more information we have, the better contract we can do. I need to see it to interpret the value."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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