The Ravens routinely work out free agents even if there is no definitive interest or positional need, but it certainly isn’t a regular occurrence for a player once considered their franchise quarterback to return to the team’s facility and audition for a job.
That will happen Thursday as Kyle Boller, a former first-round pick who was a lightning rod for fan discontent during his five-seasons as a Ravens’ quarterback, will be one of three veteran free agent passers to work out for team officials in Owings Mills.
The Ravens are likely to sign one of the three quarterbacks based on the workout results. Though they are excited about the potential of Joe Flacco’s backup, Tyrod Taylor, a sixth-round pick last year, they need to add one or two more quarterbacks to take some repetitions during the various offseason training camps. They also want to make sure Taylor, who saw action in three games during the 2011 season and completed his only pass attempt, has some competition in camp.
The Ravens have gone the past two seasons with just two quarterbacks on the active roster, a luxury afforded by Flacco’s durability. He has started every game of his four-year career.
“Everybody competes for every spot every year, every practice, and Tyrod is no different,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said earlier this month.”But we like him a lot.”
The Ravens do not comment on players that they host for workouts, so there is no indication whether they have legitimate interest in Boller or they are bringing him in as a courtesy . Boller, a 30-year-old who last played for the Ravens during the 2008 preseason, was generally well-liked and respected in the building for his toughness and how he handled himself despite the constant criticism he received.
Since leaving the Ravens before the 2008 season when he was hurt in preseason and watched Flacco win the starting job, Boller has played in 26 games for two different teams.
After signing with the St. Louis Rams to backup Marc Bulger, Boller started four games in 2009. He then moved to the Oakland Raiders and played in 14 games over two seasons. He started one game in 2011, throwing three interceptions against the Kansas City Chiefs before being replaced by the newly-acquired Carson Palmer.
The performance surely brought back painful memories for Ravens fans who never saw Boller develop into anything close to the franchise quarterback that was expected when the Ravens made a draft-day trade to to select the California native with the 19th pick in the 2003 draft.
In five seasons with the Ravens, Boller played in 53 games, starting 42 of them. He had a 20-22 record in those starts. He completed 56.9 percent of his passes with the Ravens, throwing 45 touchdowns and 44 interceptions.
Boller had his moments, and was at his best during the 2004 season when he started all 16 games, throwing for 2,559 yards and 13 touchdowns, and posting a 70.9 quarterback rating for a team that went 9-7.
However, the game never appeared to slow down for Boller, who struggled with his accuracy and consistency. Ultimately, he lost his starting job when the Ravens acquired Steve McNair before the 2006 season.
He regained it temporarily because of an injury to McNair in 2007. But after the season, head coach Brian Billick was fired and the Ravens drafted Flacco out of the University of Delaware in the first round, all but spelling the end of Boller’s rocky tenure in Baltimore.
Years later, he’s left trying to find a job as a backup, and he has plenty of company. The free agent veteran quarterback market not only includes Painter and Dixon, but Mark Brunell, A.J. Feeley, Jake Delhomme, Jeff Garcia, Jon Kitna, J.P. Losman, Donovan McNabb, Matt Leinart and Vince Young.