The Ravens have offered their second-round selection in April's NFL draft and their No. 1 pick next year in a trade for Minnesota quarterback Brad Johnson, according to a Vikings source close to the negotiations.
Talks between the clubs are expected to heat up tomorrow once Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel, returns from the Pro Bowl. But Vikings coach Dennis Green, who coached the NFC squad, had a conversation with Newsome during the introduction of this year's Hall of Fame class on the field yesterday in Honolulu.
Newsome, one of the honorees, confirmed that Green had made another offer, but would say only that no current players were involved.
The Ravens made their offer after rejecting Minnesota's initial proposal in the middle of last week, in which the Vikings wanted the Ravens' No. 1 pick this season and defensive end Michael McCrary, the team's top pass rusher who had 14 1/2 sacks this season. "There is nothing pending, but I'm sure Dennis Green's offer is some type of counter to what the Ravens have proposed," the source said. "The Ravens will consider it, and Ozzie will be talking with [Vikings vice president] Jeff Diamond soon."
Ravens owner Art Modell was unavailable to comment.
"He [Green] offered me another deal, so I've got something to think about on the plane ride home," Newsome said. "No players are involved. It's something to definitely look into."
Newsome strongly suggested that Minnesota had a Friday deadline to trade Johnson, and that yesterday's offer by Green was negotiable. Newsome hinted that the Ravens were the front-runners to acquire Johnson even though several other teams, including Seattle, had shown interest.
Billick is close friends with Johnson and Green, and Newsome and Green also are friends.
"Based on my conversation with Denny, the counteroffer is something we can accept or put back on the table," Newsome said. "I told him, 'When you do get that home run [offer], give me a call and give me a chance to match it.' "
Johnson, 30, the highest-rated passer in Minnesota history, is the top option to replace Ravens quarterback Jim Harbaugh. Johnson has a history with Billick, who was the Vikings' offensive coordinator the past five seasons. The Ravens also have contacted the Detroit Lions about backup Scott Mitchell.
Johnson has two years left on a $15.5 million, four-year contract and is scheduled to collect a $1.15 million roster bonus March 1. He has missed 15 games the past two seasons with a neck injury, a broken leg and a broken thumb.
If the Ravens don't sign Johnson, they can wait on Mitchell, who is likely to get cut during the first week of June. He just completed the second year of a four-year, $21 million contract but was benched after Week 2 when he threw three interceptions.
Billick said last night the team has not ruled out Harbaugh and Johnson was just one of many options the team is looking at.
"Obviously, Brad is the kind of player that will draw a lot of interest," Billick said. "We've discussed this situation thoroughly and there are limitations. Is McCrary on the table? No, not from us. Never has been. Never will be.
"There is a lot of posturing going on and it's up to Ozzie to determine how much is posturing, what is real and not real. We're not even at the point where we've said Jim Harbaugh is not going to be our quarterback."
The St. Louis Rams have contacted the Ravens about trading for Harbaugh, and the Vikings at one time had asked for Harbaugh as part of the deal for Johnson.
Harbaugh, 35, struggled with elbow and finger injuries during the first seven games last season. He completed 164 of 293 passes for 1,839 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Pub Date: 2/08/99