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OWINGS MILLS — Kyle Boller has a standing offer to remain with the Baltimore Ravens as their backup quarterback following this season, an overture from the organization that includes a formal contract proposal.
The former Ravens starter has yet to make up his mind, though, on whether to accept the deal or test free agency in March as he heads into the final year of his rookie contract. Financial terms and length of the proposal are undisclosed.
The defending AFC North champions remain committed to veteran Steve McNair as their starter, and have been discussing the possibility of signing former Jacksonville Jaguars starter Byron Leftwich with no pending deal or talks since "a couple of small conversations" between Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome and Leftwich’s agent, Tom Condon.
Finding a future successor to McNair has been a frequent topic of conversation at the Ravens’ training complex.
"Kyle is on a one-year contract and we’d love to have him back," Ravens coach Brian Billick said Tuesday night on his weekly WBAL radio show. "That’s really up to Kyle and his representation as we go through the year. There could be some potential for that. From a business standpoint, Kyle may want to sit back and see at the end of the season what his options are.
"He has a very clear understanding of where we are here. Steve McNair is our starting quarterback, and we have no reason to believe Steve won’t remain that for a number of years. We clearly would like to have Kyle back and would be very interested in extending Kyle."
Boller, 26, started for Baltimore for three rocky seasons, and was benched last year when the team acquired McNair, a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback, in a trade from the Tennessee Titans.
Boller, who’s playing this season under a $1.79 million base salary, hasn’t been opposed to the idea of returning.
"I would love to be here," Boller said during training camp. "Baltimore is a great city."
If the Ravens sign Leftwich, he would be the No. 3 quarterback behind McNair and Boller this season and then would ascend to the backup job in 2008 with Boller expected to depart.
Boller, who has an 18-16 career record as the starter, struggled with his decision-making and mechanics after being drafted in the first round in 2003 out of Cal-Berkeley.
However, he was solid as a backup last season in two games, completing 33 of 55 passes for five touchdowns, two interceptions and a career-high 104.0 quarterback rating.
At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Boller has a strong arm and above-average mobility.
For his career, Boller has completed 55.8 percent of his throws for 36 touchdowns, 34 interceptions and a 71.0 rating.
His progress seemed to have been impeded by being asked to start immediately as a rookie. Pocket awareness (78 career sacks) and ball security (31 fumbles, 15 lost) have been issues.
The Ravens have remained supportive of Boller despite his struggles while acknowledging that it’s a difficult situation for him because of the heavy criticism Boller has received from the media and fan base.
"When you look at young quarterbacks everyone knows that there is a learning curve and that there are going to be growing pains," offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Rick Neuheisel said. "Troy Aikman, he struggled mightily in his first couple of years and yet he’s sitting there with a Hall of Fame bust. Because of that, there’s a lot of internal pressure and external pressure. I think he’s handled it well.
"I still have high hopes for him in terms of his career. I know that this is a contract year for him. I’m hopeful that things will work out so that he can remain here in Baltimore and I can continue to work with him. I want good things for Kyle and obviously I want good things for the Ravens. Hopefully, the two will collide."
Contractually, Baltimore is set with McNair, 34, until 2010 under a five-year contract with a maximum value of $32 million, including base salaries of $3 million this season and $4 million next season and $6 million apiece in 2009 and 2010.
For Boller, making a long-term commitment to be the Ravens’ backup would require him to remain patient and possibly wait two or three more years before getting another chance to start depending on McNair’s health and outlook.
"The life of a coach and the life of a player are different things," Neuheisel said. "The coach might be more suited towards patience than young players. Obviously, none of us has a crystal ball. I still, as a quarterbacks coach and a guy who has been with Boller, believe that he has a huge upside."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.