Baltimore Ravens' Saturday update

The Ravens are set to sign quarterback Steve McNair immediately if he is traded or released by the Tennessee Titans. The two-time Pro Bowl player has agreed on the parameters of a contract with the Ravens that will pay him a signing bonus close to $11 million and an additional $1 million in base salary. The length of the deal is not known.

The $12 million McNair would receive from the Ravens in 2006 exceeds the $9 million he is scheduled to earn from the Titans this season.

Tennessee must restructure McNair's contract, release him or trade him because he counts $23.46 million against its salary cap. The Titans, who are only $112,000 under the cap, need to reduce his cap number so they can sign draft picks and other free agents.

Titans officials gave McNair permission to speak to the Ravens on the last day of the draft, which marked the team's first step in acquiring the 11-year veteran. The Ravens and McNair's agent quickly made positive strides during initial negotiations.

The Ravens attempted to trade for McNair on Sunday, offering a fifth-round draft pick. But talks ended quickly when Tennessee wouldn't back off its demand for a fourth-round choice.

It is believed the teams have not spoken since Sunday. Titans general manager Floyd Reese said earlier in the week that the value of picks in the 2007 draft has gone up, insinuating that McNair could only be had now for a first-, second- or third-round pick.

There is a chance that McNair could become a free agent in about two weeks. His grievance claiming the Titans breached their contract by barring him from working out at their facility will be heard May 16.

The players union, which filed the grievance on McNair's behalf, contends Tennessee must allow him back into the training complex or release him. The Titans say they are within their legal rights to protect against an on-site injury, which would make the club liable for McNair's large cap number.

Asked about the chances that McNair could gain his release from the hearing, NFL Players Association general counsel Richard Berthelsen said: "We have to wait and see. It's possible that the arbitrator could say the Titans have the obligation to employ him while he's under contract and, if they don't wish to comply with their agreement with him, they ought to allow him to go elsewhere."

If McNair fails to become a free agent, the Ravens might be in for a much longer wait. The Titans appear prepared to hold onto McNair until a week before training camp begins in late July if they don't receive an improved trade offer.

Ravens officials have acknowledged that a resolution could take weeks, but they privately don't expect Tennessee to keep McNair into July.

The Ravens have targeted McNair all off-season, opting not to pursue any available veteran quarterbacks. It is expected McNair would be given the starting job over Kyle Boller, who has been uneven in his three-year career.

NOTES, QUOTES
--Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan admitted he was frustrated by linebacker Ray Lewis, who complained about the team's defensive scheme and personnel.

"As a coach, I could lie and tell you the standard thing about, 'Oh, we'll let that fly under the rug,' but that's not how we operate," Ryan said. "It's unfortunate to hear any negative comment associated with our defense. Hopefully, we'll get Ray back with his teammates and we'll pull that rope in the same direction.

"This is a team game. It's about all 11 and not just one."

--The Ravens did add a quarterback this off-season, reaching an agreement with Drew Olson, who went undrafted out of UCLA.

Last season, he set a school record with 34 touchdowns and threw just six interceptions. Olson, who finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting, led the Bruins to a 10-2 record including four fourth-quarter double-digit comebacks.

The Ravens had contemplated taking him in the later rounds of the draft.

--One possible reason the Ravens might increase their offer to get Steve McNair from the Titans to a fourth-round pick is because another one could be coming from the NFL.

After losing nose tackle Maake Kemoeatu, running back Chester Taylor and defensive end Tony Weaver in free agency, the Ravens figure to be in good position to receive at least one compensatory pick in the fourth round of next year's draft.

--The Cleveland Browns used the sixth-round pick acquired from the Ravens on Stanford nose tackle Babatunde Oshinowo, who was projected by some to go in the second round. The Ravens gave up that pick to swap places in the first round with the Browns and draft Oregon nose tackle Haloti Ngata.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "My fingers are crossed. I've gotten excited just hearing about it the last few days. I think it would recharge the franchise and give us a fresh new beginning." -- Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle on the prospect of being reunited with quarterback Steve McNair

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Despite not having a legitimate starting safety, the Ravens must first add a veteran quarterback.

Team officials have long targeted Steve McNair, who is expected to be either released or traded by the Tennessee Titans. If that falls through, the Ravens likely would sign free agent Kerry Collins.

As for safety, Ravens officials said there are no available free agents left that could come in and start. They could add a veteran safety who is released over the next couple of months.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: CB Dale Carter; WR Randy Hymes; WR Patrick Johnson; LB Tommy Polley; RB Jamel White.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers): LS Drew Caylor; DT Gary Gibson; CB Cash Mouton.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: CB Robb Butler; DT Cedric Hilliard; CB Zach Norton; CB Evan Oglesby; LB Mike Smith; DE Bernard Thomas; CB B.J. Ward; LB Zac Woodfin.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: PK Aaron Elling; NT Aubrayo Franklin; LB Dennis Haley; DE Jarret Johnson; LS Matt Katula; RB Jamal Lewis; FB Ovie Mughelli; OT Tony Pashos; OG Brian Rimpf; QB Brian St. Pierre; RB B.J. Sams; LB Bart Scott; RB Musa Smith; C Thatcher Szalay; TE Daniel Wilcox.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: RB Mike Anderson; P Leo Araguz; DT Justin Bannan; CB Corey Ivy; DE Trevor Pryce; LB Gary Stills.
PLAYERS LOST: LB Peter Boulware; OT Orlando Brown; S Will Demps; TE Darnell Dinkins; NT Maake Kemoeatu; CB Deion Sanders; RB Chester Taylor; DE Tony Weaver; S Chad Williams; QB Anthony Wright; P Dave Zastudil.
 


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