Any new contract struck between March 17 and July 15 with McAlister would have meant the Ravens wouldn't have been allowed to assign the franchise tag to any player for the entire length of that deal, according to NFL guidelines.
McAlister has yet to sign his one-year tender of $7.1 million, a 20-percent increase over the $5.962 million he was paid last season as the Ravens' franchise player when he shut down many of the league's top receivers and was selected to his first Pro Bowl.
Typically, teams prefer players designated with the franchise tag to sign that tender before striking a new deal. The Ravens' stance has been to continue discussions with McAlister's agent, Mitch Frankel, while hoping that McAlister will report to training camp on time.
McAlister didn't attend any of the Ravens' minicamps.
What the team wants to avoid is being left out of the loop if McAlister opts to not report if negotiations don't yield a contract between now and July 29, when players are scheduled to report to Westminster for camp.
A communications breakdown between Ravens coach Brian Billick and linebackers Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware two years ago when they didn't inform him that they would skip a minicamp led to public bickering between Billick and the players' agent, Roosevelt Barnes. Both players reported to training camp on time and were signed weeks later to lucrative deals.
McAlister has been seeking a contract similar to Denver Broncos four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey $63 million deal that includes an $18 million signing bonus. Frankel has said previously that the two sides are far apart in discussions and didn't return a telephone call Thursday.
Billick has called McAlister the best cornerback in football and acknowledged that it's hard to quantify what the team's 1999 first-round draft pick should be paid.
Last season, McAlister intercepted three passes and deflected 16 passes. He limited St. Louis Rams receiver Torry Holt to three receptions for 38 yards, Terrell Owens to three catches for 23 yards and Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Johnson to two receptions for 15 yards.
Against the Arizona Cardinals, McAlister intercepted two Jeff Blake passes, returning one 83 yards for a touchdown. It was two games after he was benched for violating team rules (missed curfew, team meeting) days before kickoff against the San Diego Chargers.
Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.