Ravens trade for McNair

OWINGS MILLS -- Steve McNair was finally granted his divorce from the Tennessee Titans and is on the verge of officially becoming the Baltimore Ravens' new starting quarterback. McNair arrived in Baltimore on a commercial flight at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

A few hours earlier, the Ravens agreed on a trade for the former NFL Co-Most Valuable Player that's contingent upon him passing a physical he immediately underwent with team doctors.

The Ravens are expected to send a fourth-round draft pick to the Titans in exchange for McNair. Titans and Ravens team officials said the final terms of the trade won't be announced pending formal approval from the league office.

Although the results of McNair's physical aren't expected to be available until this morning, the Ravens are optimistic enough about his health that they have scheduled a late-afternoon news conference. McNair wouldn't officially become a Raven until 4:05 p.m. today when NFL transactions are finalized.

"Hopefully, we'll get good news in the morning," Ravens team spokesman Kevin Byrne said.

During the NFL draft, the Ravens were authorized to negotiate with McNair and agreed to a five-year contract that includes an $11 million signing bonus and a $1 million base salary this season. The three-time Pro Bowl selection is expected to earn $20 million in the first three seasons.

"I am happy, and Steve is, too," said Bus Cook, McNair's agent. "He is very relieved. Steve can look forward now and not backwards."

McNair missed the final game of last season with a strained pectoral muscle, but recovered in time to play in the Pro Bowl in February.

The 33-year-old didn't appear concerned about his medical status upon landing at the airport, telling reporters that he's in the best shape of his life and has no current physical problems

McNair said his primary goal was to win a Super Bowl, adding that his decision was influenced heavily by the presence of receiver Derrick Mason, a Titans teammate for eight seasons, and linebacker Ray Lewis.

Plus, McNair's move was likely heavily spurred by feeling unwanted in Nashville, Tenn.

The Titans barred McNair from their training complex April 3, citing liability concerns over his $23.46 million salary-cap figure and $9 million base salary. The NFL Players Association filed a grievance asking that McNair be released and granted damages, but arbitrator John Feerick limited McNair's victory to winning the right to rejoin his teammates for workouts.

The Titans revealed Monday that McNair failed his exit physical following a season where he was hampered by back, chest and ankle injuries, insisting that he must take another physical to return to workouts. However, he never showed up to take one.

The Ravens began openly wondering whether Tennessee was stalling due to a fierce rivalry that existed between the two former AFC Central combatants.

"It's a very unfortunate situation the way they treated McNair, and me and McNair are very close friends," Ray Lewis said. "Steve McNair is a warrior. I would want any warrior here that goes into the game with the mentality he goes into it with."

The impasse could have drawn out even longer since Tennesee, which is only $112,000 underneath the salary cap, had opted to hold onto McNair until July when they would have needed to shed his salary to sign a draft class that includes quarterback Vince Young.

"I think it was time that something had to get done on their part," Cook said. "They had to free up some cap space. The market for Steve was bigger than what Tennessee thought it would be. Economically, it made sense for Tennessee to move forward."

Rather than chase other free agent quarterbacks like Kerry Collins or Aaron Brooks, the Ravens waited patiently for McNair for the entire offseason He is expected to instantly supplant incumbent Kyle Boller, a former first-round draft pick who has had three erratic seasons.

One of four players in league history with 150 touchdown passes and 35 rushing scores, McNair trails only Steve Young, Randall Cunningham and Steve Grogan in that category. He's also in strong company as one of five quarterbacks with 25,000 passing yards and 3,000 yards gained on the ground, joining John Elway, Fran Tarkenton, Randall Cunningham and Young.

"He's a leader," tight end Todd Heap said of McNair. "You can tell that from his mannerisms on the field and how he portrays and handles himself. He definitely brings some stability to the quarterback position.

"He's got all the experience you need. He's done a lot of things. He's a guy you can pull things from and gain knowledge from."

McNair has passed for 27,141 career yards and 156 touchdowns in 11 seasons. He sports an 81-59 winning percentage as a starter and led the Titans to a Super Bowl in 2000, losing to the St. Louis Rams as Kevin Dyson was stopped a yard short of a touchdown in the final seconds.

Acquiring McNair would mark the Ravens' biggest trade since an aborted deal for receiver Terrell Owens in 2004.

"Steve's a great quarterback," running back Jamal Lewis said. "I know him and he's a good person also."

The Ravens travel to Nashville on Nov. 12 and will feature McNair at quarterback along with two other former Titans in Mason and cornerback Samari Rolle.

"There might be some mixed feelings over there about letting Steve McNair come over here," Ray Lewis said. "It should be a good game."

Three years ago when he shared the co-MVP award with Peyton Manning, McNair passed for 3,215 yards, 24 touchdowns and a career-high 100.4 quarterback rating. He led the Titans to a wild-card playoff victory over the Ravens in Baltimore.
McNair missed two games last season, passing for 3,161 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. However, the Titans finished 4-12 with the youngest roster in the league.

"I think he's got a lot left in him," said Mason, named to two Pro Bowls during his eight seasons catching McNair's passes. "From the inside-out, I saw a couple of games last year and he did a great job. I figure he's still got two, three, four years left in him if he doesn't take the shots that he did in previous years."

NOTES: Safety Ed Reed watched with his helmet off during team drills. Ravens coach Brian Bilick denied that the development is related to a contract dispute and said he expects Reed to attend next week's minicamp. Reed is entering the final year of his original contract. "Does he want a contract done? Yeah," Billick said. "Do we want to get a contract done? Yeah. I'm comfortable with where we're at in terms of his participation." … The Ravens signed quarterback Sonny Cumbie, formerly of Texas Tech and the Arena Football League's Los Angeles Avengers. Rookie Drew Olson may return next week if he completes his final exams at UCLA. … Center Mike Flynn, who's in noticeably better shape, returned to workouts despite a sore knee. … Wide receiver Clarence Moore won't participate in the rest of the minicamps due to a sports hernia that required surgery after the season, but is expected to be ready for training camp.
 

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

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