Ravens Should Refocus on Signing McAlister

After five months of flirting back and forth with the Seahawks, Bengals, Broncos and Ravens, Sam Adams chose his new team: the Oakland Raiders. Before deciding to ink a new six-year deal with the silver and black, Adams made one last attempt to get more compensation from the Ravens. But the Ravens didn't bite, sticking to their initial offer of a bonus worth $2.5-$3.0 million, that could increase to $5 million if Adams was to reach certain attainable incentives.

So now that the dust has settled, and Adams is out of the picture, the Ravens should use the remaining amount of cap space they have to re-sign Chris McAlister. It just makes too much sense.

McAlister, along with teammate Peter Boulware, is due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. The Ravens have been working on extending Boulware's contract for months, hoping to free up some cap space to sign free agents to help augment the team's roster. But, there has been so much inertia between both the Ravens and Boulware's agents (Rosevelt Barnes and Eugene Parker) since Ray Lewis received a blockbuster extension that it seems unlikely that something will get consummated soon.

Meanwhile, McAlister hasn't even received a phone call about the prospect of getting a new deal. And he deserves better.

For the past three seasons, McAlister has become arguably the most important defensive player on the Ravens' roster next to Ray Lewis. With his combination of size, speed and quickness, McAlister fits the prototypical mold of the new age cornerback. He has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his career, making teams throw to the other side of the field to avoid testing him most of the time. And while he still lacks focus and concentration at times, he seems to grasp the idea that he is close to becoming a player regarded as one of the best at his position.

He also invites the responsibility of taking on the best receivers in the game every time. There have been games where McAlister was burned so badly in coverage, that his jock strap came flying off the field (see games against the Packers, Steelers, Cardinals and Jaguars within the past two years). There have been other games where McAlister was able to able to shadow players like Rod Smith, Jimmy Smith, Randy Moss and Tim Brown pretty darn well.

Not only is he a topnotch shutdown corner, which are rare finds in the NFL today, but he is also likely to receive less compensation than Boulware. At the present time, Boulware and his agents have been angling to receive a multi-year deal that would pay him a bonus in the $12-$13 million range, maybe more. The Ravens have offered Boulware as much as $10 million, which would easily make Boulware the highest paid outside linebacker in the game, but their offer has been rejected.

McAlister would likely garner a bonus in the $7-$10 million range, but it's doubtful to be worth more than that. Plus, the market dictates that corners get greater compensation than linebackers do, because the good ones are harder to replace.

The other quandary facing the Ravens is they can't use the franchise tag on both players to keep them from entering the market next year. It would make sense for the Ravens to reach an extension with one of the two before the season starts, just so they can avoid making the decision to franchise either player before March 1.

This isn't to suggest that the Ravens shouldn't try to re-sign Boulware either. But until he lowers his demands significantly, it makes no sense for the front office to give in. The fact is that the Ravens have made Boulware the best offer he will see from any team.

But McAlister hasn't even received any offer. The Ravens already screwed up by signing him to a four-year deal when he was drafted as the tenth pick, out of the 1999 draft. If he were signed for five years (which is the length of time that most first round picks are signed for), they wouldn't need to worry about re-signing him today.

However, what's done is done. And the Ravens can only make up for their mistake by signing McAlister to an extension soon, before it gets too late.

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