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Jackson Ravens' target today Club looks to re-sign standout wide receiver to '3- or 4-year deal'; 3-year, $9M request lowered; Free-agent defenders Seals, B. Thomas due


The Ravens could re-sign free-agent wide receiver Michael Jackson to a long-term contract as early as today, when team executive vice president David Modell is scheduled to meet in Los Angeles with Jackson and agent Marvin Demoff.

The Ravens, who declined to pick up the $2.5 million option on the third and final year of Jackson's contract last week, thus allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent, are seeking to retain the services of the six-year veteran at least through the 1990s.

"We'd like to get a three- or four-year deal," Modell said.

Sources said Jackson originally asked for $9 million over three years but has lowered that request. Jackson is expected to settle for an average salary between $2 million and $2.5 million.

Jackson enjoyed his best season last year, when he caught 76 passes for 1,201 yards (sixth-highest in the NFL) and tied for the league lead among receivers with 14 touchdowns -- all career highs.

While the Ravens focus on keeping Jackson and free-agent center Steve Everitt, who visited the Philadelphia Eagles and listened to a six-year, $11.5 million offer before returning to his Baltimore home yesterday, they also will begin to look this week for ways to upgrade their defense, one of the league's worst in 1996.

During the next several days, as many as four unrestricted free agents, including Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Ray Seals, Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Broderick Thomas and New England Patriots defensive end Michael Jones, are expected to visit the Ravens.

Seals, 6 feet 3, 306 pounds, is a seven-year veteran who missed all last season with a rotator cuff injury he suffered in the Steelers' training camp. He played the previous two years in Pittsburgh under Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, and in 1995, he helped the Steelers reach the Super Bowl with 48 tackles and 8.5 sacks, both career highs.

Seals originally signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1988 after joining the semipro ranks directly out of high school.

Thomas, 6-4, 242, is an eight-year veteran who has played for four teams. Last year, he started 10 games at strong-side linebacker but was moved to defensive end as a situational pass rusher because the Cowboys were dissatisfied with his coverage skills. Thomas ended up with 65 tackles, 4 1/2 sacks and 20 quarterback pressures.

"We're interested in [Thomas] primarily as a linebacker, but we would also utilize him as a pass rusher," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel.

Jones, 6-4, 285, is a six-year veteran who played the last three years with the Patriots. After starting 12 games last year, Jones lost his job to Ferric Collons. Jones finished the season with 36 tackles and two sacks. His best season was 1994, when he had a career-high 45 tackles and six sacks and started every game.

The Ravens also could be losing some other players to free agency. Defensive end Anthony Pleasant visited the Atlanta Falcons earlier this week, and linebacker Eddie Sutter, one of the franchise's top special teams performers the past three seasons, has a two-year offer from the Cincinnati Bengals.

"It's early, but the Bengals have shown a lot of interest," said Joseph Coletta, Sutter's agent. "We're going to look at other options, but Cincinnati is a real possibility."

The Bengals' interest in free-agent guard Jeff Blackshear -- a re-signing priority of the Ravens' -- reportedly has cooled since Cincinnati re-signed free-agent guard Kevin Sargent.

Pub Date: 2/19/97

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