Ravens exploring their options

OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens' quest for a viable downfield target will likely extend into the NFL draft next month. <br><br> Besides possibly using their second-round draft pick as ammunition, the Ravens' search to upgrade the lowest-ranked passing game from last season may include exploring trade options. Baltimore's trade for All-Pro wide receiver Terrell Owens was rescinded last week in a settlement brokered by the league and players' union.<br>

"There are players that can be acquired in other ways," said Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome when asked Monday about the remaining free-agent receivers. "We're exhausting every avenue now to help ourselves. We've still got confidence with the draft that we can help ourselves, too.

"We've still got some ways of helping this football team. The trade market, yes. I don't know about the restricted market."

The Cleveland Browns have authorized the agent for wide receiver Dennis Northcutt to seek a trade, according to published reports.

Like Owens, Northcutt missed a deadline to void the remainder of his contract. Unlike Owens, Northcutt didn't file a grievance and remains under contract until 2006.

Northcutt's date to void the last three years of his deal was firm and clearly spelled out in his contract, according to the union. A highly-regarded return specialist, Northcutt caught 62 passes last season for 729 yards.

When asked about the Ravens, Jerome Stanley, Northcutt's agent, said Monday: "I don't want to talk about it yet. Let's wait a few days."

Newsome said the team isn't interested in Washington Redskins restricted free agent receiver Darnerien McCants. McCants' agent, Harold Lewis, had said that Baltimore had an interest in his client.

Signing McCants would cost a fifth-round draft pick as compensation if the Redskins opted not to match an offer sheet.

"We like to pick," Newsome said.

Newsome said Baltimore isn't done with free agency after re-signing several of its own players. The Ravens are reportedly $2.71 million underneath the salary-cap limit.

Unrestricted free-agent receivers include Dez White, who had 49 catches for the Chicago Bears last season and has drawn interest from the Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs, along with Curtis Conway, Bill Schroeder, James McKnight and Oronde Gadsen. 

"We can still be an active player in free agency, but it's got to be some players that are enticing to us that can help our football team," Newsome said.

Newsome said the Ravens didn't get heavily involved in the bidding for seven-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Warren Sapp after talking with agent Drew Rosenhaus. Sapp, 31, signed a seven-year deal with the Oakland Raiders reportedly worth $36.6 million.

"I talked to Drew," Newsome said, "but I never made an offer."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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