Ravens pondering quarterback options

OWINGS MILLS – Quarterback Anthony Wright is set to undergo surgery Monday to repair the partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, and the Baltimore Ravens are poised to react to the prognosis.<br><br>Hello, Kerry Collins, Kordell Stewart or, possibly, another veteran passer waiting to be cut that could fill the backup void created by Wright's medical problem.<br>

"We can conjecture all kinds of people," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Some we can't talk about until they are legally released."

That discussion probably won't include Kurt Warner, though. The oft-injured, two-time Most Valuable Player is closing in on a deal to mentor rookie Eli Manning with the New York Giants once he's released after June 1 from the St. Louis Rams.

"We're in serious talks with a specific team," said Mark Bartelstein, Warner's agent. "I wouldn't rule anybody out, but Kurt wants to get this done as soon as possible after June 1. There's nothing to say right now about the Ravens."

If Wright is indeed going to be unavailable to begin the season, as trainer Bill Tessendorf has forecast, that forces the Ravens to explore other alternatives.

Their standard job offer entails a veteran minimum salary because Wright has already received a two-year contract worth $3 million that includes a $1.5 million signing bonus. It also includes the caveat that this will strictly be a backup situation.

The Ravens have said they won't stage an open competition with starting quarterback Kyle Boller

First on the Ravens' wish list is likely Collins, the strong-armed, 6-foot-5, 248-pound pocket passer who lost to Baltimore in Super Bowl XXXV when Baltimore senior consultant Jim Fassel was the New York Giants' head coach.

However, Collins, 31, is being pursued by the Oakland Raiders, who are simultaneously attempting to get starter Rich Gannon to restructure his $7 million salary. Collins was released by New York days after Manning was drafted when he declined to restructure his $7 million salary.

A starting opportunity and a higher salary on a long-term pact could be in the offing for Collins if he reaches an agreement with Al Davis' Raiders.

Collins did cancel his trip to the Green Bay Packers at roughly the same time period as questions surfaced about Wright's shoulder.

Collins passed for 3,110 yards last season with 13 touchdown passes, 16 interceptions and a 70.7 quarterback rating. For his career, he has thrown 132 touchdowns with 134 interceptions for a 73.1 rating.

If Collins was to sign with the Ravens, it would likely mirror the expected time that Fassel will be in Baltimore before pursuing a head-coaching position: one year.

Collins' agent, David Dunn, didn't return telephone calls seeking comment.

Meanwhile, Stewart is highly available. 

The 31-year-old former Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears starter was the lowest-ranked passer in the league last season behind Boller with a 56.8 rating

In seven starts, Stewart completed 50.2 percent of his passes for 1,418 yards, seven touchdowns and 12 interceptions. However, Stewart often excelled against Baltimore when he was with the Steelers and has elite mobility.

Billick has been complimentary of Stewart in the past.

Stewart has rushed for 2,851 yards and 38 touchdowns during a decade in the NFL along with 77 touchdown passes, 84 interceptions and a 70.7 quarterback rating. Stewart hasn't drawn as much interest on the open market as Collins.

Tim Couch is still under contract with the Cleveland Browns and his agent, Tom Condon, is at a contract impasse with the Green Bay Packers that's critical to stalled trade discussions. He has also filed a grievance against the Browns for barring him from working out at their training facility.

Gannon has refused to restructure his deal. Oakland has serious salary-cap issues and Gannon has a $8.928 million cap figure. The Raiders would save $7 million against the cap if it releases him after June 1.

Gannon does have a background with Billick with the Minnesota Vikings and he's from the East Coast having attended Delaware. Gannon is 38 and had reconstructive surgery of his labrum in November.

The Ravens aren't expected to pursue other free agents such as Damon Huard, having focused on the top available veterans as potential insurance policies behind Boller.

A more low-key option, if Wright is somehow able to make a speedier return, would be to bring back Ray Lucas. Lucas was with the Ravens for a few games last season after Boller injured his quadriceps against the St. Louis Rams.

Wright is likely to be placed on the physically unable to perform list before the regular season.

That would entail him sitting out the first six weeks of the season before returning to practice. Baltimore would have three weeks to decide whether to activate Wright, place him on injured reserve or waive him.

Unless the outlook is unexpectedly positive for Wright after his impending surgery, it's likely that the Ravens are going to acquire a new backup to Boller.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.


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