THE COST FOR STEVE MCNAIR

Lombardi's Way THE COST FOR STEVE MCNAIR

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The Steve McNair saga will continue for no less than another two weeks after testimony was heard from both sides by arbitrator John Feerick.  According to NFL Players Association general counsel Richard Berthelsen, "Our basic point is that Steve has a right to be [at Baptist Sports Park] not just for the hearing, but also on the practice field.  The club says they can keep him away and that is what the arbitrator is going to decide, hopefully by June 1.”
 
Berthelsen added, "Our case was pretty brief, what made it long was the cross-examination. But Steve did say what he’s always said: He would love to be a Tennessee Titan and retire in that uniform, but yet it seems like the club is not allowing him to perform and that is why we’re all here."
 
Most, including the Ravens expect the Titans to eventually release McNair.  There is precedent in cases like McNair’s and if history repeats itself, the Titans will be forced to allow McNair access to the Titans’ facilities because he remains under contract.  At that point, the central issue will have come full circle – what if McNair is injured working out at Baptist Sports Park (“BSP”)?
 
If Feerick rules in favor of McNair, the Titans will be forced to honor his contract, one that includes a $9 million salary in 2006.  That would handcuff the Titans and prohibit them from augmenting their roster and signing their draft choices, one of which will cost them dearly, No. 3 pick Vince Young.
 
Since there is no sense of urgency to sign the draft choices until July, some have said that the Titans may sit on McNair until then which could put him behind the curve in learning the Ravens offense should he land here as expected.
 
I’m not buying that.
 
Besides the draft choices, there are other needs that the Titans need to address.  In addition to that the issue of McNair’s potential injury remains in play if he is allowed to work out at BSP per John Feerick.  Some have suggested injury insurance to protect the Titans against having to shell out the $9 million.  And while that could save them on real U.S. Currency, it will still hit their cap and the same problems will remain.
 
My bet is that Ozzie Newsome has this McNair saga nailed down.  He’s had it nailed down for a very long time.  What if the trade talks were initiated just to give the Ravens an edge in negotiations with McNair and his agent Bus Cook?  Now that a framework is in place for a deal, the Ravens hold most of the cards but not all of them.
 
What if another team comes calling for McNair?  Might the Ravens deal fall apart?
There is certainly that risk.  But something tells me that Ozzie has already factored that in and that there must be some assurances, some wink-wink from McNair and Cook that the moment McNair is set free by the Titans, he will don a pair of purple shades.
 
Without those assurances, waiting makes no sense.  None!
 
If Ozzie and the Ravens fail to walk away with McNair at this point, it could make for a very long season for the Ravens and their fans and much shorter careers for select personnel within the ranks of Ravens’ management.
 
Some have said that the decision on McNair will not be a cause and effect thing – that Feerick’s ruling will not immediately trigger a sequence of events that brings McNair to Baltimore.
 
I think it is cause and effect and I think Steve McNair is a Raven sometime early in June.
 
The costs to obtain McNair will range from a fourth round pick to nothing.  The Ravens offered the Titans a fifth round pick a couple of weeks ago.  That offer is said to be off the table.  The Titans wanted a fourth round pick.  After the arbitrator’s ruling, the Titans might call Ozzie and ask if there’s still interest in a trade.  Maybe they cave and take the fifth or to save face, maybe they accept the fifth with provisions that could make it a fourth if certain performance hurdles are surpassed by McNair as a Raven.  At that point, some would say why bother while others would say get the deal done and take out the risk of other potential suitors should McNair become a free agent.
 
Ty Law passed another physical, this time with the Patriots.  His agent Carl Poston said that nothing substantive has been offered to his client yet, although besides the Patriots, the Chiefs, Titans and Seahawks remain interested.  As reported earlier, this development could influence the Titans to move more quickly on McNair if their interest in Law is genuine.
 
Usually reserved for Letters 2 TL, this thoughtful email arrived today from one of our regular visitors and I decided to share it with you all today here on The Grapevine:
 
Tony,
 
Tuesday evening while watching one of my favorite channels, Adam Schefter of the NFL Network reported the facts of Steve McNair’s grievance hearing.  After the report Rod Woodson commented that with McNair, The Baltimore Ravens would be his favorite to win the AFC North.  Wow!  If you remember, last year Woodson projected that the Ravens would be awful, with a capitol "A" with Boeller at QB.  That was quite a statement then and so is his most recent.  I don’t know that I totally agree but I like what I am hearing.  Of course, I’m not an 11-time Pro-Bowl player either.  He might know a bit more about this than I as he proved last year.
 
Now that the arbitrator likely will not rule on the case until the beginning of June, I think The Ravens should give serious consideration into making this go away for McNair, the Titans, the Arbitrator and all fans of the Baltimore Ravens by giving the Titans the fourth round pick – if that is still a viable option.  The risk of losing out on McNair is much greater than the value a fourth round pick represents.  Besides, if we win it all (hang with me now I know I am really out there) that would be selection 128.  The decision is too easy from where I sit.
  
Free Steve McNair, bring him to Baltimore and the land of pleasant living.  Please git ‘er done!
 
Jack Disney
 
2006 selection 128 (4th round #32) was Robbie Simms – OT, Ohio State
2005 selection 128 was Chauncey Davis – DE, Florida State
2004 selection 128 was Cedric Cobbs – RB, Arkansas
2003 selection 128 was Bryant McNeal – DE, Clemson
2002 selection 128 was Larry Foote –  ILB, Michigan
2001 selection 128 was Floyd Womack – T, Mississippi State
2000 selection 128 was Peter Sirmon – OLB. Oregon
 
Jack, while I think the Ravens taking it all is a bit Pollyanna, I’d love to be proven wrong.  Yet as I’ve been proclaiming for awhile as it relates to McNair I agree — GIT R DONE!
 
According to a league source the Ravens have signed former Oakland Raiders LB Tim Johnson.  During his four year career with the Raiders, Johnson posted 82 tackles, 1 interception, 7 passes defended and half a sack.  Some may remember Johnson as a featured performer on the HBO Hard Knocks series back in 2001 that chronicled the Ravens’ post Super Bowl victory summer camp.  Unfortunately for Johnson, that summer camp’s Grim Reaper came knocking on his door asking for his playbook.
 
Scouting reports on Johnson describe an aggressive player with a high motor.  He makes solid initial contact but can get caught up in traffic since he’s not adept at shedding blocks.  His is a solid, fiery and intense special teams player who is willing to lay the wood.
 
The list of players the Ravens have lost to free agency includes Will Demps, Darnell Dinkins; Maake Kemoeatu, Chester Taylor, Tony Weaver; Chad Williams, Anthony Wright and Dave Zastudil.  A few of these losses should yield compensatory picks and given the size of their contracts and expected playing time with their new teams, Weaver and/or Kemo could provide the Ravens with that No. 4 pick that the Titans are requesting as compensation for Steve McNair in a trade.  Other factors that weigh into the compensatory pick equation are the number of free agents the Ravens have signed and where in the draft the lost players were selected.  Weaver was a second round pick and and Kemo was a UDFA.  The exact formula for determining compensatory picks is a league secret which certainly can raise the brow of a suspicious eye.
 
Trevor Pryce and Mike Anderson were both cap casualties and as a result the Broncos aren’t entitled to compensation much like the Titans received no compensation for the losses of

Derrick Mason and Samari Rolle last year.  Similarly, if Steve McNair is a cap casualty, the Titans would get nothing for him in 2007.
 
The Sun’s Mike Preston has reported that the Ravens have exchanged proposals with Ed Reed but the sides aren’t close to reaching a contract extension.  Reed wants to be among the league’s highest paid defenders.  The Ravens are looking to make Reed the highest paid safety.  This will not be easy.
 
Think about it this way…the Ravens gave Chris McAlister roughly $16 million in guaranteed money.  Who is more important to the Ravens defense Reed or McAlister?  If both were on a draft board, which would you pick first?
If you said Ed Reed, then you can understand why his likely starting point in negotiations is a $16 million signing bonus that the Ravens gave McAlister.  And then there’s this little not so insignificant award that Reed received in 2004 called DPOY.
 
I bet the Steelers will be watching these negotiations closely.  Troy Polamalu’s contract ends after the 2007 season.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and CBS Sports 1300. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, Guinness, Orange Crushes and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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