At such a price, call this QB 'Gold' Leaf

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Quarterbacks may not be quite worth their weight in gold these days, but they're getting close.

Bobby Beathard, the general manager of the San Diego Chargers, paid a king's ransom to the Arizona Cardinals to move up one spot from third to second in the draft to get a quarterback.

He swapped his first-round pick and gave up his second-round pick this year, a first-round choice next year and two players (kick returner Eric Metcalf and linebacker Patrick Sapp) to get the quarterback.

If Peyton Manning is taken by Indianapolis -- which the Colts figure to do even though he had an average workout last week -- Beathard will grab Ryan Leaf.

The price was high and Beathard's getting flak for overpaying, but the price won't look so high if Leaf is a star, because there are so few franchise quarterbacks in the league.

Back in 1983, the Chargers had three No. 1 picks, but would surrender only two of them in their bid for John Elway. They lost him to the Denver Broncos and still regret not making that move.

Beathard figured he had to act quickly because the bidding was heating up. The Cincinnati Bengals had offered the 13th and 17th picks on the first round plus running back Ki-Jana Carter.

Arizona was willing to trade the pick because the Cardinals think Jake Plummer is their quarterback of the future.

There were reports that the Ravens had offered Arizona two firsts and a second for the pick, but owner Art Modell said he only told the Cardinals to get back to him if they wanted to deal. The Ravens then decided to go after Jim Harbaugh.

Modell said he sees no need for the Ravens to draft a young quarterback this year. He said he's satisfied with grooming Eric Zeier and Wally Richardson for the future.

"We have two youngsters we like very much," he said.

He also insisted it's not set in stone that they'll cut Vinny Testaverde after June 1.

"We could keep four [quarterbacks]," he said. "It's been done before."

But the Ravens, who are only $1.8 million under the salary cap, probably need to cut Testaverde to get more cap room.

If the Ravens do cut Testaverde, San Diego assistant coach Mike Sheppard, a former Ravens assistant, is lobbying to bring in Testaverde while they break in the young quarterback.

The Ravens play the Chargers this year, so it'd be interesting to see them play against Testaverde.

Despite the loss of Antonio Langham, Modell said the team may not draft a cornerback with the 10th pick in the first round, even if it can't swing a trade for Tyrone Poole of the Carolina Panthers.

Modell said the team isn't enamored with the cornerbacks likely to be available at the 10th spot and may trade down. The Ravens would like to get a third-round pick to replace the one they gave up for Harbaugh.

Let's try to connect the dots.

A team's top front-office executive and coach are both in the final year of their three-year contracts.

The executive gets his deal torn up and replaced by a new three-year deal with a nice raise. The coach doesn't get an extension. Meanwhile, the owner says the team is about to make a major breakthrough this fall.

It would be safe to assume the coach would be on the hot seat to produce that breakthrough this fall.

But Modell, who extended the contract of Ozzie Newsome, the (( vice president of player personnel, and didn't extend the contract of coach Ted Marchibroda, said nothing should be read into Newsome's extension.

Newsome said the front office and the coaching staff are different departments.

"It should not be construed as a lack of confidence in anybody, especially Ted. I hope Ted will be here for a long time. We'll see what happens. We'll review everything after the season," Modell said.

Hmmmm.

It's easy to think Marchibroda is under the gun to produce a winning season this year.

Belichick Rule

It's unfortunate that Bill Parcells, the coach of the New York Jets, doesn't let his assistants talk to the media.

It'd be fascinating to hear what the Jets' Bill Belichick thinks about a new rule that may be passed at the owners meeting next week because of him.

The competition committee will consider a rule banning coaches from talking to players on the opposing team the week of a game.

Belichick contacted Ravens offensive linemen Wally Williams and Orlando Brown the week of the Jets game last year.

Both players were called for a hearing last week, but the league decided that they couldn't take action against the Jets because there wasn't a specific rule banning his contact, even though it seemed to fall under the umbrella of tampering.

Now, it looks as if the league will pass a rule to stop Belichick and other coaches from doing it in the future.

The Viking saga

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has managed to turn a rather routine sale of the Minnesota Vikings to novelist Tom Clancy into a soap opera.

Tagliabue held two hearings to rule on club president Roger Headrick's claim he had a right of first refusal on purchasing the team.

The problem is that Headrick apparently didn't announce it until after Clancy posted the highest bid for the team.

By ruling against Clancy, Tagliabue likely would be inviting a lawsuit. If Headrick had right of first refusal, the bidding process was a sham.

Tagliabue's ruling is supposed to be announced this week. If he rules in favor of Clancy, don't be surprised if he finds a job for

Headrick in the league office. Headrick has been one of his close allies.

Promises, promises

Remember when Cleveland was promised a new team in 1999 as a part of the deal that gave the Browns the green light to become the Ravens?

At the time the owners voted for that, they assumed a team would move there.

But it turned out the Browns' move prompted several cities to pass stadium bills and now there's no candidate to move, so the league will have to give the city an expansion team.

The owners aren't thrilled with expansion, so some of them are lobbying to have the league run the team for a few years. That way, the current owners could share in the profits.

"It's one of many ideas we'll be discussing again," said New York Giants co-owner Bob Tisch.

He said the action would give the owners time to "price it correctly." Because the Vikings were sold for slightly more than $200 million, it wouldn't be easy to turn around and charge $400 million for the Cleveland team. While delaying the sale, owners may hope, team prices would rise.

Tagliabue called the idea of the league's running the team a "remote prospect," but wouldn't rule it out.

Not surprisingly, Cleveland officials don't like the idea of the league's operating the team.

"The city of Cleveland is opposed," said Mayor Michael White.

"It's antitrust socialism for the rich," said Cleveland City Councilman Edward Rybka.

Maybe the Cleveland officials should go back to their candlelight vigils.

Names in the news

Cornerback Eric Allen, traded to the Oakland Raiders for a fourth-round pick, is refusing to report. The Raiders lose the pick if they can't talk him into playing for them.

Quarterback Neil O'Donnell has refused a pay cut, so he figures to be cut after June 1 by the Jets. Coach Bill Parcells has excused him from the off-season workouts because he doesn't want to risk an injury that would leave the Jets on the hook for his $4.25 million salary.

Curtis Ennis, the ex-Penn State running back who was suspended for taking a suit from an agent, can't work out for scouts this spring. He can't go back to Penn State, there's no indoor facility in his hometown of Union City, Ohio, and the league won't waive the rule that workouts must be held at a player's college or hometown.

Marcus Allen of the Kansas City Chiefs showed up when he was called for jury duty recently, but was excused by Judge Jack E. Gant because he said Allen's celebrity status would have made it difficult to conduct a trial. Before Allen left, he gave the judge autographs for himself and his two grandsons.

Quotebook

"I literally started crying, honest to God. I never imagined I'd get that much. I broke down."

-- Center Kevin Mawae on the $16.8 million deal he got to go from the Seattle Seahawks to the Jets.

Pub Date: 3/15/98

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