BoulwareWatch 2005: One Small Step

The knee injury and subsequent microfracture surgery that put Peter Boulware's NFL career in serious jeopardy over 18 months ago appear, at first glance, to be behind him.

At a workout for four NFL teams in 90-degree heat in Tallahassee, Florida today, the former Baltimore Ravens linebacker displayed the initial signs of what several personnel men (and one little brother) hope will be an odds-beating comeback.

The caveat is that the workout in and of itself was only the first step.

Representatives of the Seattle Seahawks (director of player personnel Will Lewis, according to Mike Sando of the Tacoma News Tribune), the Cleveland Browns (general manager Phil Savage), the Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers were on hand in Tallahassee to watch Boulware. Reports have said that he did not participate in combine-style drills such as the 40-yard dash and the vertical jump, but focused on non-contact pass-rushing drills that would display his initial explosiveness. He moved without pain on the knee he injured in December of 2003, and there were no reported remnants of the turf toe injury he suffered on November 4 of last year when he was trying to work his way back from the physically unable to perform list.

Boulware’s agent, Roosevelt Barnes, liked what he saw. "We were surprised and pleased how well the workout went," Barnes told ESPN’s John Clayton. "He looked really good. He showed a good burst in the pass rush drills. He really wants to have a good season and have a big season for sacks."

Reports from Sando and Clayton indicate that those in attendance were also impressed with Boulware’s initial post-recovery foray back to the big time – what remains is to regain his endurance and prepare for whatever offers come his way. In May of this year, he refused an enormous restructuring of the 2005 portion of the Baltimore contract – an offer which would have reduced his $7.9 million cap total ($6 million base + prorated signing bonus) to somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million. The refusal led to the May 11 release from the only team he’s ever played for.

According to “The Hawkstorian”, Seahawks.NET’s salary cap guru, the Seahawks have approximately $3 million in cap room at this time, about half of which is allocated to their 2005 draft picks.

The Browns are in considerably better shape. According to Barry McBride, the Managing Editor of BerniesInsiders.com (Scout.com’s Browns site), Cleveland has over $6 million in current cap room they can use to pursue Boulware.

An NFL source has told Seahawks.NET that at this time, the competition for the services of a healthy Peter Boulware is indeed primarily between Seattle and Cleveland. The Seahawks would present Boulware as a pass-rushing DE in Ray Rhodes’ 4-3, while Cleveland would insert him in a role he’s more used to – a quarterback-disrupting OLB in a 3-4 set. This is what he did, and how he played, in Baltimore from 1997 to 2003 before missing all of 2004.

The 1997 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and a three-time Pro Bowler, Boulware is the Ravens’ all-time sack leader, with 67.5 in eight full (seven active) seasons.

As decision time comes, Seattle’s “X Factor” – the fact that Boulware would be playing with his younger brother Michael, the Seahawks’ starting strong safety who enjoyed an incredible rookie season – looms large. Cleveland’s advantage is the familiarity of the scheme, Boulware’s relationship with Savage (who was Baltimore’s director of college scouting when the Ravens drafted him out of Florida State in the second round of the 1997 NFL draft), and the near-legendary scheming ability of new head coach (and former Patriots defensive coordinator) Romeo Crennel turn the wheel in Cleveland’s direction.

The ex-teammate factor is a push – linebacker Jamie Sharper, who the Seahawks acquired this offseason as a free-agent from Houston, would love to be reunited with his former teammate – Sharper and Boulware spent five years together in Baltimore’s linebacking corps from 1997 to 2001. Cleveland cornerback Gary Baxter, who the Browns acquired in free agency this offseason from the Ravens, is said to be lobbying his ex-teammate very heavily. Baxter and Boulware spent 2001-2004 in Baltimore together.

Time will become a factor in these negotiations, as Seattle’s veterans report to training camp at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington on July 28. Cleveland’s vets report to the Browns’ training facility in Berea, Ohio a day later.

Stay tuned to Seahawks.NET and BerniesInsiders.com for more news on this story as it happens!

Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to contact him at doug@seahawks.net.

Many thanks to Barry McBride of BerniesInsiders.com for his information and assistance!


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