INDIANAPOLIS – The Baltimore Ravens’ quest to upgrade their thin wide receiver corps isn’t confined to many boundaries.
They recently gave a second chance to Donte’ Stallworth after he was reinstated by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Stallworth had served jail time and was suspended for an entire season for striking and killing a Miami construction worker with his car while driving under the influence of alcohol.
So, would the Ravens be willing to sign controversial wide receiver Terrell Owens?
Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn’t rule out the possibility during a press conference Saturday at the NFL scouting combine.
“You got me, we’re interested in T.O.,” Harbaugh said with a smile on his face. “We’re interested in all the guys that can make our team better.”
Although Harbaugh wasn’t dismissive of the possibility of acquiring Owens, who was informed Saturday that the Buffalo Bills won’t be retaining him after one unproductive season, a team official and league sources indicated that it’s an extremely unlikely scenario.
The Ravens aren’t expected to pursue Owens, barring an inability to sign or acquire a top-flight receiver via a trade.
Plus, Harbaugh rarely discloses the Ravens’ actual interest in a free agent. To do so wouldn’t make any sense since it could potentially create a market that didn’t already exist and drive up the price.
Nonetheless, the idea of Owens joining the Ravens is certainly interesting even though he’s past his prime at age 36 and coming off a season where he didn’t live up to his $6.5 million salary.
He has a stormy history with the Ravens and Harbaugh was on the Philadelphia Eagles’ staff when Owens was there and famously clashed with team management and coaches and feuded with quarterback Donovan McNabb.
The Ravens tried to execute a trade for Owens six years ago, sending a second-round draft pick to the San Francisco 49ers.
Ultimately, the deal was nullified when Owens refused to report to Baltimore. An NFL special master was considering a grievance filed by the players’ union on Owens’ behalf when a settlement was reached where Owens was sent to the Eagles and the Ravens’ draft selection was given back to them.
During a game against Baltimore following a touchdown catch, Owens mocked middle linebacker Ray Lewis by imitating his trademark dance. In his autobiography, Owens also took a shot at general manager Ozzie Newsome. He cited one of the reasons that he didn’t want to come to Baltimore is because Newsome allegedly said to Owens’ agent, David Joseph, "Sometimes, a black man has to be slapped."
The comment has never been substantiated.
“I’ve always said I’ve got a lot of respect for T.O. and I know Ozzie does, too,” Harbaugh said. “He had a good year. We watched him on tape and he was very effective last year.”
Harbaugh said he didn’t have any problems with Owens during his tenure as a special teams coach in Philadelphia.
In other team news, the Ravens are still working to re-sign wide receiver Derrick Mason.
Mason is an unrestricted free agent and recently expressed no interest in signing anything shorter than a two-year contract.
The Ravens are amenable to that idea.
“I think both sides are really interested in bringing back Derrick,” Harbaugh said. “Derrick, obviously, has let it be known what he’s interested, but that’s a good place to start. We’re interested in Derrick for more than one year.
“No doubt, he can still play. He’s 36 years old, but he’s not physically. As long as he can play, we want him to be a Raven. We’re pretty confident that we’ll be able to get something done. I know Ozzie is working on that right now. “
Harbaugh expressed confidence that Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed will return next season after declaring that he was pondering retirement.
Reed has yet to give the team commitment, but the Ravens are confident that the star defensive back’s nerve impingement of his neck that hampered him last season won’t prevent him from playing.
“Ed Reed is playing, as far as I know,” Harbaugh said. “I think Ed is one of the greatest competitors in football. I’ve said I think Ed’s going to play because I think Ed’s going to do everything he can to play. If he’s physically able to play, he will play.
“Right now, my assumption is he’s going to be able to do that. If that changes or Ed changes his mind, that’s obviously his prerogative. He hasn’t told the team that he’s not going to play and medically we don’t have any reason to think that he won’t right now.”
Harbaugh reiterated that the team has no plans to trade backup running back Willis McGahee despite his $3.6 million salary and the development of starter Ray Rice into one of the top all-purpose runners in the NFL.
“I think McGahee will be on our team next year,” Harbaugh said. “I’m just impressed with the guy. He’s a leader on our football team and one of the most fun guys to be around every day. I’ve told Willis, ‘If you want to start in the game, go be the best running back that week. Willis McGahee could gain 1,500 yards next year. That could easily happen, and I’m not ruling it out.”
Despite backup quarterback Troy Smith’s frequent trade requests through his agent’s Twitter account and phone calls to Ravens chief negotiator Pat Moriarty, the team isn’t inclined to trade the former Heisman Trophy winner.
“I see him still with the team,” Harbaugh said. “I think Troy can play quarterback in this league as a starter. That’s why we like him as our backup.
“We understand Troy’s desire to be a starter. But Troy is our backup quarterback at this point and I don’t think we’re going to change that unless it benefits our football team.”
Meanwhile, the Ravens were extremely impressed with Stallworth’s conditioning and speed during his workout.
He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds on a slow surface.
“I think the thing that convinced us more than any other was the workout,” Harbaugh said. “He put together a great workout and we put him through a grueling workout. He has been working to get in great shape.
“He caught the ball well. He’s strong. He seems like he’s very healthy. We’re going to give him an opportunity to be a Raven and help our football team.”
The Ravens investigated Stallworth’s background and were comfortable enough to sign the former New Orleans Saints first-round pick to a one-year, $900,000 contract that also includes an addition $300,000 in incentive clauses.
“I don’t think we had any concerns other than the concerns that would be obvious,” Harbaugh said. “It’s really how he’s going to deal with this thing. He’s a first-class individual, I think. We had him in Philadelphia. We’ve got some other coaches that have had experiences with him. He’s a good person. He made a huge mistake. I think it’s something that he deals with every single day. He’s very remorseful about that.
“He’s doing everything he can to not just move past it, but deal with it. He’s been involved with the family down there. He has a lot at stake. Donte’ Stallworth has a lot at stake right now in his career, in his life. So, we think we’ve got a highly motivated guy who’s a good person at heart. I would be surprised if he doesn’t give us everything he’s got to be the best football player he can be.”
NOTES: The Ravens have made it a priority to try to re-sign free agent defensive lineman Dwan Edwards. “I’ve said it before, we want Dwan back and I’ve got my fingers crossed,” Harbaugh said. “We’re talking to him right now. I think Dwan wants to be a Raven, too. So, we’ll see what happens.” … Harbaugh didn’t rule out the possibility that cornerbacks Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb as well as linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo and wide receiver Marcus Smith could be back by training camp after suffering torn anterior cruciate ligaments last season. Because Webb tore up his knee in December, he’s considered likely to begin next season on the physically unable to perform list. “I don’t think it’s too optimistic because of the way those guys are training,” Harbaugh said. “Right now, we expect those guys to be practicing the first day of training camp because nowadays those ACLs get back fast. I don’t think you can count on it. I’m sure we’ll have a contingency plan.” … The Ravens have talked with several players at the scouting combine. That includes Cincinnati wide receiver Mardy Gilyard, Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate, Illinois wide receiver Arrelious Benn, Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, Syracuse wide receiver Mike Williams, Ole Miss wide receiver Shay Hodge, Pitt tight end Dorin Dickerson, Iowa tight end Tony Moeaki, Oregon tight end Ed Dickson, Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, Auburn linebacker Antonio Coleman, Clemson linebacker Ricky Sapp, James Madison linebacker Arthur Moats and Arizona State defensive end Dexter Davis …
Harbaugh related a story about how he ran into Owens at an airport Burger King while traveling back from Iraq last year with Tom Coughlin, Jeff Fisher and Jon Gruden. “We didn’t ask for his autograph, but we did say hi and kind of rekindled the relationship,” Harbaugh said. “I think he’s a good guy and a good player.” … The Ravens wanted to land Kansas City Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop last year, but he wound up being the Chiefs’ seventh-round pick and Mr. Irrelevant as the last player selected in the draft. “The Chiefs broke our hearts,” Harbaugh said. The Ravens plan to bring back kicker Billy Cundiff and bring in some competition for him. Baltimore could draft a kicker … The Ravens are upbeat about outside linebacker Terrell Suggs following a career-worst season after he showed up out of shape after signing a $62.5 million contract. Suggs has committed to attending the entire offseason program this year. “I think Terrell is really excited to be in Baltimore in the offseason,” Harbaugh said. “He’s already working. He’s out in Arizona and he works hard. We hired [outside linebackers coach] Ted Monachino who is going to work with him directly. He worked with him at Arizona State when he was so successful. I think those two have a trust level and a confidence that will help us.” … Harbaugh said that former Cleveland Browns general manager and Ravens executive George Kokinis hasn’t rejoined the organization. “Not that I’m aware of,” he said. … Michigan outside linebacker Brandon Graham is one of the fastest rising draft prospects, and he was overjoyed when Ravens director of pro personnel Vince Newsome spoke to him at the Senior Bowl. Graham idolizes Lewis. “His tenacity, he’s somebody who’s going to be around the ball every play,” Graham said. “Ray Lewis, that’s my guy.”
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.