Boston spurns Ravens, Blake to look around

OWINGS MILLS — Ultimately, the Baltimore Ravens' aversion to guaranteeing millions of dollars to blue-chip wide receiver David Boston became the barrier to acquiring him. Carrying the risk of his off-field issues and meeting his asking price ended the Ravens' flirtation with Boston despite his sprinter's speed and body builder's physique.

Boston, 24, canceled his scheduled visit to Baltimore and reached an agreement with the San Diego Chargers by Wednesday afternoon, fulfilling his desire to stay on the West Coast with a seven-year contract that reportedly averages $6 million per season and includes a $6 million signing bonus.

He will replace the released Curtis Conway as quarterback Drew Brees' favorite target.

The Ravens wanted more protection given Boston's recent no contest plea to a driving under the influence arrest that Phoenix police said includes a positive test for marijuana and cocaine. Boston faces a potential fine from the league office for violating the substance abuse policy.

"We clearly took a stance early that there was going to be a threshold that we were going to hold to given some of the circumstances surrounding him," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Obviously, San Diego has much more of a tolerance, I should say, threshold for that risk."

Meanwhile, former Ravens offensive tackle Orlando Brown continued his free agent tour of NFL teams by visiting the Ravens' training complex.

Also on Wednesday, a published report linked free agent Ravens quarterback Jeff Blake to upcoming visits with the Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals. The Bears' visit is scheduled for today.

As for Boston, the Ravens reportedly proposed a six-year pact worth $36 million that offered much less guaranteed money in terms of a signing bonus than San Diego's offer sheet. The Ravens' proposal was predicated on a major portion of the guaranteed dollars being held up for a year until Boston had proven himself to be free of legal entanglements.

"The total dollars are not the issue here," Billick said. "They never have been, but the way that they'd be doled out, given some of the concerns, we set our standard very clearly, what it was going to be. San Diego was able to exceed that, and we'll move on."

Now, the Ravens will refocus and consider other options beyond Boston. The list of available wide-outs is dwindling down to players like Marcus Robinson, Donald Hayes, Derrius Thompson, Oronde Gadsen and Conway.

"David Boston clearly was the crown jewel of the wide receiver market," Billick said. "Right now, there is no clear-cut player we think we can go to and upgrade. "Remember, even though we have the cap room and the money we can't chase after a position and throw away a bunch of money just because we have a particular need if you're going to be good over the long haul."

From a purely physical standpoint, though, Boston would have represented the largest potential upgrade. At 6-foot-2 and 243 pounds, Boston reportedly has cov-ered 40 yards in 4.3 seconds despite his patella tendon surgery on his right knee.

In 2001, Boston caught 98 passes for 1,598 yards and eight touchdowns. He ended last season on injured reserve.

"Obviously Boston is one of those game-breaker guys," Ravens director of pro personnel George Kokinis said. "We're going to have to kind of readjust."

In the case of Brown, the svelte 6-foot-7, 360-pounder who played for the Ravens from 1996 to 1998, was filling the Ravens' hallways after a successful workout and physical.

The Ravens didn't sign him on Wednesday, though. He'll extend his tour with a stop with the New England Patriots and Bill Belichick, his former coach with the original Cleveland Browns.

Brown hasn't played since the final game of the 1999 season when in one of the more bizarre incidents in league history he damaged his left eye when it was hit by an errantly tossed official's flag. He even wears sunglasses indoors.

Brown has been medically cleared to play, and has been linked to several teams, in-cluding the Denver, St. Louis, San Diego, Tampa Bay and Washington.

Billick said he was impressed by Brown's mobility and wasn't concerned about a rust factor.

"I'm very impressed with his mindset right now and we'll do everything we can to see if this can be a place for him," Billick said. "Obviously you still want to make sure the eye situation has resolved itself, but from my last conversation with our medical people he seems to be clean."

NOTES: Former Ravens defensive tackle Sam Adams is waiting to hear back from the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills.

"The Ravens at this point are not a frontrunner," said Angelo Wright, Adams' agent. "That doesn't mean they might not become a player if something doesn't go right with these other teams." 

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