Ravens must decide if Stewart is the Best option

In a haste to find a replacement for the departed Jeff Blake, the Ravens contacted the only viable option left on the quarterback market this past Friday: Kordell Stewart.

Now that they've targeted Stewart to potentially become their signal caller in 2003 and beyond, the question is if Stewart indeed makes it out to Owings Mills for a visit, (the Bears and Cardinals have already sent Stewart contract proposals over the weekend) how badly does Baltimore really want Stewart as their quarterback?

The answer seems obvious, considering that Stewart is being courted by the Ravens' front office as we speak. From Ozzie Newsome, to Phil Savage, to Brian Billick, even down to Ray Lewis, everyone involved with the club has seemed to warm to the idea of Stewart leading the Ravens into battle.


However, the desire for pursuing Stewart may not be reflected in the offer that the Ravens could potentially make to super agent Leigh Steinberg, who represents the inconsistent QB.

The Bears and Cardinals are believed to be offering Stewart, deals worth $3 million a year, with incentives that could boost the contracts even further.

The Ravens were reluctant to offer Jeff Blake any more than $1.5 million per season, and before they severed their ties with Blake this week, sources around the team suggested that the team viewed Blake as the equal of Stewart.  


Steinberg is actually seeking a deal worth $5 million a season, which seems like a rather outlandish demand; given that Stewart was benched last season in favor of Tommy Maddox. If the Ravens seriously approach Steinberg with an offer worth close to $2 million per season, they won't get a sniff of attention.


That said; if they offer Stewart around $3 million per season, perhaps matching or coming close to the Bears and Cardinals offers, than a bidding war may ensue.


Again, it goes back to question of how much are the Ravens willing to spend on a quarterback that may or may not be the long-term answer for this football team.

There is a possibility that the team views Stewart as more than a bridge QB, which was not the same feeling they had for Blake, even though they blatantly stated that Blake was nothing more than an older version of Stewart. Still, unlike Blake, it seems like Stewart's raw skills have not eroded just yet. He can still jaunt 30-yards down the field for a touchdown score and he still improvises when a play breaks down with the best of them.


His overall arm strength is similar to Blake's, although Blake has slightly better touch on his deep passes. But both players are extremely erratic passers, especially in the intermediate areas. Stewart is known for having poor mechanics as well. He will tend to stare down receivers, not go through his progressions if the pocket is bearing down on him and his passes never seem to be placed perfectly on course, allowing his receivers to run in stride after making the catch.  


Stewart has also failed miserably in the postseason, specifically in two AFC championship apperances against the Broncos and the Patriots.  


With all of these concerns, will the Ravens make a full commitment to Stewart?

And by relaying that Stewart is their quarterback for the present and the future, that doesn't necessarily mean that the organization has to present him with an even structured contract. They can present him with a deal that would include an option clause which would be picked up a year from now, just to cover themselves in case the former Steelers' inconsistencies continue to hamper him this season.


But that would mean that at some point, they would need to pay him a bonus (perhaps worth around $4 million), whether it would be split or not, during his tenure in Charm city.


Even if you read past the contractual jargon, Kordell Stewart would be financially tied to the Ravens in some form or another.  


There are other safer avenues for the Ravens to explore, like signing a good backup quarterback like Todd Bouman or Neil O'Donnell to a cheap contract and having that player artificially battle for the starting job with Chris Redman. Whoever would ultimately win that competition would hold the QB position for just this season, allowing a drafted prospect out of the first three rounds to claim the position a year from now.  


For now, signing a backup seems to be plan B, though.

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