Ravens talking with McAlister and Boston's agent

OWINGS MILLS -- During the opening day of the NFL free agency period, the representative for Chris McAlister and David Boston held discussions with the Baltimore Ravens about both of his clients. Mitch Frankel, the players' agent, said he wants to schedule a meeting for next week to continue to negotiate a long-term contract extension for McAlister, the Ravens' franchise player and top cover cornerback. He termed Baltimore's inquiry about Boston, a blue-chip wide receiver, as preliminary.

Frankel said he plans to talk to the Ravens in a few days to possibly set up a visit for Boston. Boston is considered the top unrestricted free agent on the market after the Arizona Cardinals decided not to franchise the chiseled 6-foot-2, 236-pound wideout.

"I've known Brian Billick for a long time, I think Baltimore is a great organization and I think with the right offensive weapon, someone as talented as David, they could be a very dangerous team," Frankel said. "David is an elite receiver. I don't think there's any doubt about his ability.

"He's been hidden in Arizona. Now, we have to visit some teams and figure out the next play."

Arizona is reportedly $36.2 million under the cap, but didn't want to guarantee the $5 million franchise price for Boston, the average for the top five receiver salaries.

The former Ohio State star recently pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence stemming from an incident last March. According to Phoenix police, Boston tested positive for cocaine and marijuana. He also faces a possible fine and suspension by the NFL.

Boston made a public apology.

Cardinals defensive line coach Joe Greene, the Pittsburgh Steelers' Hall of Famer, made this comment about Boston to USA Today: "He could have the world by its tail if he lives to the age of 30."

Boston caught 98 passes for 1,598 yards and eight touchdowns in 2001. He is reported to have recently run the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds after rehabilitating a patellar tendon injury suffered last year.

The Texas native was placed on injured reserve after 32 receptions, 512 yards and one touchdown in eight games last season. In 2000, the former first-round pick had 71 catches for 1,156 yards and seven scores.

The Ravens' chief competition for Boston appears to be the Washington Redskins and Atlanta Falcons.

"I think it's pretty wide open," Frankel said. "In terms of the market, I think David is clearly one of the best receivers in the game and he'll be in demand."

Expect the Ravens to tread carefully in free agency, though.

"We're going to take it real slow," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said on Thursday, the eve of free agency. "That's where we've done our best. When you jump out there first you end up setting the market. We're going to let other teams set the market."

By assigning the franchise tag to McAlister, the Ravens tendered him at a one-year contract worth $5.962 million. That move ensured compensation of two first-round draft picks if he was to sign an offer sheet with another club.

However, under a new league regulation the Ravens have until March 14 to sign McAlister to a new contract and still retain the right to assign the franchise tag to another player next season. If the Ravens were to sign McAlister to a deal between March 15 and July 15, they would be penalized by not being able to use the franchise designation on any players for the length of McAlister's contract.

A contract reached after July 15 would allow Baltimore to franchise a player next season. Newsome didn't venture any predictions on the outcome of the McAlister negotiation on Thursday.

"At this point, they're not in the ballpark, so we'll just have to see what happens," Frankel said. "It's plenty of time if they want to get a deal done."

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