"We've grown so close," Bisciotti said. "I think he is an incredible resource, and I want to keep Art around forever. It's not just from a knowledge standpoint, but it's based on our relationship."

The feeling is mutual.

"My obligation to Bisciotti is very, very clear: I want to leave this team in super shape," Modell said. "I don't play it any other way than the straight and honest way."

Smooth changeover

Keeping Modell around is just part of the plan for a seamless transition in ownership.

Ravens coach Brian Billick has already agreed to a four-year, $14 million extension and senior vice president of football operations Ozzie Newsome is expected to receive a similarly structured contract. Those new deals allow Billick and Newsome to remain together in the first two years of Bisciotti's ownership.

"It's important to have that team intact as long as they want to stay intact," Bisciotti said. "In two years of being in control of the team, I'm going to know if we want to work long-term together."

That commitment is essential to make the rebuilding project succeed. It would have been difficult for Billick and Newsome to concentrate on the long-term goals of the team while worrying about their short-term job security.

"You have to have in place people to make the transition," Newsome said.

"We are in this situation because we all decided that this is the course we wanted to take. To have Brian and I able to work our way through it, it sends a positive message to the locker room and the community. Those are the two places that you have to be responsive to."

Getting cap in order

By taking the brunt of their cap hits this year, the Ravens expect to be in their best cap shape since moving here.

But don't count on the Ravens to freely spend their projected $15 million of cap space next season. There is no urgency to mortgage future seasons just to send Modell out on a high note.

"We are on a plan," Newsome said. "We will be competitive, but we will also find out what our needs are in 2003 and then we'll address those needs. We'll address as many as we can. If we have the success in '04 and '05 like we did in 2000 and '01, he's still going to be a part of that."

Still, Modell is savoring every moment in his final 17 months as owner, rebuilding his team once again while reflecting on the legacy he will leave behind.

"I think it will be a dramatic change in my life, but a good one," said Modell, who has lost 30 pounds while recovering from a mild heart attack in April.

"I've had my time in this league. I hope that I've done right by a lot of people. I promised a certain team when I came to Baltimore, and I think I have delivered. The last game I see as the Baltimore Ravens owner will be emotional. I'm sure of it."