Ravens haggling for McNair

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens escalated their pursuit of quarterback Steve McNair, haggling with the Tennessee Titans by extending a trade offer Sunday that was rejected by Titans general manager Floyd Reese. Baltimore is believed to have offered a fifth or sixth-round draft pick. However, McNair's agent apparently wasn't turned off by the Ravens' initial contract proposal.

McNair's agent, Bus Cook, was granted permission by Tennessee to negotiate with the Ravens. Cook said that the Titans are considering releasing McNair or trading him with an outcome possible as soon as Monday.

It's believed that the Ravens would try to work out a restructured contract with McNair before consummating any trade. If they sign McNair, he would replace incumbent starter Kyle Boller under center.

"He is getting ready to go to Baltimore, I think there will be a trade done sooner than later," Cook told Tennessee reporters. "McNair is aware of the talks. He'll be fine to move on. The Ravens are a very competitive team. He can take them to the Super Bowl."

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome acknowledged speaking with Reese, who said that Newsome offered an undisclosed draft pick in this year's draft in exchange for McNair.

"Steve is a Tennessee Titan," Newsome said with a smile. "That has not changed. Have I had a little dialogue with Floyd? Yes, very little."

Reese insisted that McNair isn't going to be imminently released, but admitted that he doesn't know if a restructured deal is possible at this stage of a high-profile staredown. A once-strong relationship between the Titans and the 2003 Co-Most Valuable Player has deteriorated rapidly.

McNair has a $23.46 million salary cap figure, a $9 million base salary and a $1 million roster bonus that's due on Sept. 1.

With the Titans drafting Texas quarterback Vince Young with the third overall pick, their need for McNair other than mentoring Young for one season has pretty much ended.

"It would be great to be reunited with Steve, but we have a lot of confidence in Kyle Boller," said Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason, McNair's close friend and former Titans teammate. "Until something happens with Steve, there's probably not much to say."

The NFL Players Association filed a grievance earlier this month when Titans owner Bud Adams ordered management to bar McNair from working out at their facility due to liability concerns. An arbitrator has yet to hear the case.

Because of McNair's high salary, the Titans don't have enough money in their rookie pool to sign Young and the rest of their draft picks. However, they wouldn't need to actually shed McNair's high salary until late July when teams usually sign draft picks before training camp.

"Steve has been around long enough to understand that you have to separate the business side from everything else," Titans coach Jeff Fisher told Tennessee reporters, declining to confirm or deny reports that McNair will be traded or released. "Steve has confidence in his abilities. Steve is not finished playing.

"He's determined to prove that he can play and play at a very high level. That's what he's living on right now, and the hope that this thing gets resolved."

The Titans are in no rush to release McNair, who would prefer to be released as soon as possible so he can join a new team and get acclimated to a different playbook. It's believed that McNair has been talking often with Mason.

The Ravens didn't draft a quarterback, but indicated that they will sign an undrafted rookie free agent within the next few days to go with Boller and reserve Brian St. Pierre.

When asked about the possibility of acquiring McNair, Ravens coach Brian Billick was vague in his reply due to league tampering rules: "Stay tuned."

Aaron Wilson writes Ravens Insider and the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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