Ravens closing in on McNair deal

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens have reached agreement on the parameters of a contract with Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair that would pay the veteran $12 million this season, according to a report on the NFL's official Web site.

McNair would reportedly receive nearly an $11 million signing bonus and a $1 million base salary in the first year of his contract. The Ravens typically do split-tier bonuses on larger-figure deals, with some of the guaranteed money likely to come later in a roster bonus.

McNair's agent, Bus Cook, was authorized by Titans management to talk with Baltimore, which attempted to trade for the 2003 Co-Most Valuable Player on Sunday with an offer of a fifth-round draft pick rejected by Titans general manager Floyd Reese. The Carroll County Times and other outlets reported earlier this week that McNair was amenable to the Ravens' initial contract offer.

"We talked to the agent about a contract on Sunday, but [Ravens vice president of football administration] Pat Moriarty hasn't indicated anything to me that we have a deal," Ravens team spokesman Kevin Byrne said. "He's still a Tennessee Titan, so this doesn't matter at all."

Titans officials echoed that sentiment that nothing had been concluded regarding McNair, who is due a $9 million base salary this season from Tennessee and a $1 million roster bonus in late August.

"I don't know if they have reached a formal agreement, but I was under the impression that they had reached some sort of parameters for a deal on Sunday," Titans team spokesman Robbie Bohren said Thursday night. "They had sort of worked out the structure, so I don't believe this is anything really new other than the financial terms."

Cook didn't return a telephone call.

The matter of compensation between Baltimore and Tennessee still needs to be worked out, and the two teams haven't spoken since Sunday when Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome declined to meet Reese's request for a fourth-round draft pick in exchange for McNair.

Baltimore is prepared to wait until late July when the Titans will have to release McNair to shed his $23.46 million salary-cap figure to sign a draft class that includes Texas quarterback Vince Young and USC runner LenDale White.

It's believed that talks between Baltimore and Tennessee haven't been rekindled, and no discussions are currently scheduled.

Both sides are awaiting the outcome of the grievance the NFL Players Association filed on McNair's behalf against the Titans on May 16 in Nashville, Tenn., to be heard by a New York arbitrator.

At issue is the Titans barring McNair from their training facility, citing liability concerns. It's considered unlikely that if McNair wins his grievance that he would be immediately released even though that condition was requested by his agent.

A precedent for this type of case was set two decades ago when former Oakland fullback Steve Smith was barred from working out at the Raiders' facility because they were trying to trade him. The Raiders were ultimately ordered to allow Smith to return to work.

"Steve is going to come in with a chip on his shoulder because of the way things were handled in Tennessee," said Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle, a close friend and former McNair teammate. "I don't think any team wants to play us with Steve McNair playing with a chip on his shoulder."

McNair missed two games last season due to injuries, but completed 61.3 percent of his passes for 16 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and an 82.4 rating.
"The Ravens know Steve McNair so well from the rivalry we had with Tennessee, and they will tell you that Steve McNair was the only guy they had to worry about," Rolle said. "I think he gives us leadership that we need. He's the truth."

"Everybody knows we definitely underachieved going 6-10 with the type of talent we got. I don't think we can have a season like we had last year. Having him, it definitely won't happen."

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

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