Ravens trade for Northcutt appears highly unlikely

Unless a significant gap is bridged between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns, a proposed trade for wide receiver Dennis Northcutt appears completely unlikely to transpire.

Browns president Carmen Policy told Cleveland reporters at the close of the NFL owners' meetings this week in Palm Beach, Fla., that the starting point in a trade for Northcutt is a second-round draft pick. However, the Browns executive went one step further and made a point that would seem to clearly eliminate the Ravens from contending for Northcutt's services.

Policy said that the Browns would require a first-round draft pick in a trade with Baltimore because he didn't want to trade Northcutt within the AFC North. Of course, the Ravens lack a first-round choice in this draft after expending it last spring in a trade with the New England Patriots that allowed Baltimore to draft starting quarterback Kyle Boller.

"We cannot conceive of anything that would justify trading him to the gold standard of our division unless the compensation was truly worthwhile," Policy told reporters.

The Ravens have offered either a fourth-round or a fifth-round draft choice, according to published reports, although Northcutt's agent has reportedly tried to get Baltimore to increase its offer to a third-round pick.

Northcutt, 26, caught 62 passes last season for 729 yards and two touchdowns. He doubles as a highly-regarded return specialist.

Drafted by Cleveland in the second round from Arizona, Northcutt is under contract at $700,000 per season through 2006 because his agent failed to void the remainder of his contract.

"There's absolutely no way that you can give this kid away," Browns coach Butch Davis said at the AFC coaches' breakfast Tuesday morning. "He has excellent value to us. 

"When it's all said and done, we'd like to do what's best for everybody, but we certainly have to do what's best for us."

Policy and Northcutt's agent, Jerome Stanley, are sniping at each other through the press.

Stanley didn't return a telephone call Thursday, but ripped the Browns on Wednesday for being "borderline mean-spirited." He attempted to explain away his failing to meet a Feb. 19 deadline as "an administrative error."

However, Policy shot back sharply at Stanley. It's unclear whether this is posturing, or legitimate animosity and what impact their dispute would have on trade discussions.

"Jerome Stanley should spend more time trying to find a comfortable home for his player rather than trying to create bad vibes with the team that owns his contract for the next three years,'' Policy told the Akron Beacon-Journal. "This situation does not exist because of anything the Browns did. The Browns are now in a position where they have to make a decision. Our first preference would be to have Dennis Northcutt on our team and happy. 

"That's what we tried to accomplish before free agency occurred. Thanks to Jerome Stanley, he's not a free agent. And now we have an obligation to do what's best for the Browns.''

Stanley has threatened that Northcutt will not take part in off-season workouts, or report to training camp with the Browns. He also stated that Northcutt will not report to a team he's traded to if it's not a team of his choosing. Stanley said Northcutt wants to play for the Ravens.

The Los Angeles-based agent also rubbed salt in the Browns' wounds for losing twice to Baltimore last season.

"They beat you twice last year without Dennis," Stanley said. "What's the difference? Dennis is not their problem. Jamal Lewis, Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis are their problem."

Regardless, the Browns obviously hold the cards in this personnel situation that has evidently become personal.
"Well, he needs to decide if he wants to play in the National Football League for the next three years," Policy said in response to Stanley's threats.

As he said a week ago in his office at the Ravens' training complex, Ravens coach Brian Billick reiterated again this week that Baltimore is unlikely to be able to obtain Northcutt from Cleveland.

"Obviously, we would be one of the least likely teams," Billick said. "But you never know. You see a Drew Bledsoe go from New England to Buffalo. So, stranger things have happened."

Indeed, but the Ravens consummating a trade for Northcutt still appears to be a strange, unlikely outcome.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

Ravens Insider Top Stories