Stewart prepared to wait, Ravens ponder options

OWINGS MILLS – The agent for quarterback Kordell Stewart affirmed that the Baltimore Ravens hold the cards as a waiting game is afoot before they decide which veteran will back up starter Kyle Boller.<br><br> Ravens coach Brian Billick has said the team is interested in Stewart and has held discussions with the former Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers starter, but remains inclined to wait to see what quarterbacks become available after June 1.<br>

"We're very interested in the Ravens and they're very interested in Kordell," agent Leigh Steinberg said. "Kordell has always been intrigued by Baltimore, both last year when he talked to them as a free agent and when he was a Steeler.

"Last year, he wanted to be a starter and now he has accepted that he will be a backup and would be a positive influence in that role. Now, the ball is in the Ravens' court."

Steinberg said that Stewart hasn't received a formal contract offer, but emphasized productive talks with Baltimore for a position that would carry a veteran minimum salary. The job opening follows the news that Anthony Wright will be out for at least the first few months of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery.

With Oakland Raiders coach Norv Turner stating that quarterbacks Kerry Collins and Rich Gannon will compete to start, that diminishes the likelihood that Baltimore would be able to sign current Buccaneers starter Brad Johnson in the potential fallout of a Gannon-Jon Gruden reunion in Tampa Bay. Johnson has strong ties to Billick from their stints with the Minnesota Vikings.

That leaves Kurt Warner, but the two-time league MVP is likely headed to the New York Giants. Cleveland Browns quarterback Tim Couch is in limbo as trade discussions and contract talks with the Green Bay Packers are at an impasse.

"Only one domino has fallen since the draft really, and that's Collins leaving the Giants after drafting Eli Manning," Steinberg said. "It's going to be interesting to see who winds up where."

Steinberg said that All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis called Stewart to recruit him last year during the veteran signing period before Baltimore ultimately drafted Boller in the first round.

A Pro Bowl selection in 2001 who has a 5-0 mark against the Ravens in games played in Baltimore, Stewart, 31, started seven games for the Bears.

He was the lowest-ranked passer in football last season with a 56.8 quarterback ranking. Stewart passed for 1,418 yards with seven touchdowns and 12 interceptions before being cut in March.

"He chose Chicago thinking that they wouldn't draft a quarterback and they wound up picking Rex Grossman," Steinberg said. "It turned out to be a disastrous situation for Kordell. He learned a lesson from it."

Baltimore quarterbacks and receivers coach David Shaw said that Stewart's trademark mobility is a major factor. Stewart has rushed for 38 touchdowns and 2,851 yards. 

"Kordell's ability to escape pressure could be beneficial, wrapping that around what we have with Kyle," Shaw said.

The Ravens can afford to wait with Stewart since even Steinberg acknowledges that there's no heavy interest from other suitors. The agent said that the closest Stewart came to reaching a deal this off-season was with the Buffalo Bills, who are coached by former Steelers offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey.

Stewart has a career 70.7 quarterback rating, completing 55.8 percent of his passes for 84 interceptions and 77 touchdowns.

Three years ago, Stewart was in the Pro Bowl after passing for 3,109 yards. However, he fell out of favor in Pittsburgh the next season and was replaced by Tommy Maddox.

"He's still Kordell," Steinberg said. "He still has a lot of unique qualities and talents. We're prepared to wait for Baltimore because that seems to be the best place for Kordell. He's prepared for what being a backup entails."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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