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Ravens get Mitchell, eye backup; Trade for QB done, club makes Moon 1-year contract offer; Rams' Banks possibility; Moves make Zeier appear odd man out

THE BALTIMORE SUN

PHOENIX -- The Ravens haven't ended their quarterback hunt yet.

After finalizing their deal to get Scott Mitchell from the Detroit Lions yesterday, the Ravens immediately started looking for a backup to play behind Mitchell.

They made a one-year contract offer to Warren Moon and also are considering, among others, Tony Banks of the St. Louis Rams.

Ozzie Newsome, the team's vice president of player personnel, said the Ravens may start trade talks with Rams coach Dick Vermeil as an insurance policy in case they don't get Moon. Banks was made expendable when the Rams signed former Washington Redskins quarterback Trent Green as a free agent.

Newsome also kept open the possibility of trading up for a quarterback -- or Heisman Trophy-winning running back Ricky Williams -- in next month's NFL draft.

Mitchell, who is expected to sign a one-year, $3 million contract, cost the Ravens a third-round draft choice this year and a conditional fifth-round selection in 2000. The latter pick will be upgraded to a fourth-rounder if Mitchell appears in half the Ravens' offensive plays.

Newsome said the loss of this year's third-round pick wouldn't necessarily prevent him from trading up from the 10th spot in the first round, even though he conceded that it would could cost him second- and fourth-round picks.

That would mean the Ravens would be left with just one high pick in the draft, but Newsome said, "If you get that one guy, he can have the type of impact on a franchise as much as all those other guys [the Ravens could draft with the picks they gave up]."

The Ravens have had talks with the Indianapolis Colts about the No. 4 overall pick and the Rams about No. 6.

Coach Brian Billick, though, pointed out that if quarterbacks go 1-2-3, that could push a good player at another position to the 10th pick and the Ravens could get him without making a move. He also didn't rule out taking a defensive player if a blue-chip prospect fell that far.

The Ravens, meanwhile, are set to trade last year's starter, Jim Harbaugh, to the San Diego Chargers, possibly by today. The trade is contingent upon the quarterback reworking his contract. Harbaugh's agent, Steve Forest, said a deal was "pretty imminent."

A source familiar with the negotiations said Harbaugh would be given a two-year contract worth about $2.75 million, which includes a minimal signing bonus, plus incentives.

With Mitchell in, Harbaugh on his way out, and the Ravens seeking a backup, the indications are that Eric Zeier is no longer in the team's plans.

Although Billick said it's premature to write off Zeier, he now appears to be only a last resort if the Ravens can't find another backup. Billick simply doesn't appear to be enamored of 6-foot quarterbacks.

"Eric's a good athlete, but a 6-foot quarterback has difficulty, particularly in back of a line as big as ours," Billick said.

As for Moon, he is mulling over the Ravens' offer and hopes to make a decision by early next week.

Leigh Steinberg, who along with David Dunn represents Moon, said he has an offer from the Kansas City Chiefs, and that money is not likely to be the key factor in the decision.

Moon is more interested in his role, which probably means he's trying to decide whether he'll have a better chance of eventually beating out the Ravens' Mitchell or the Chiefs' Elvis Grbac, even though he'll come in as a backup.

"You have a player who's still anxious to be a starter, but he's also realistic and pragmatic," Steinberg said.

Steinberg said one edge that Ravens have is that Moon played for Billick in Minnesota. "The Billick factor is a plus," Steinberg said.

Billick also was busy yesterday defending his choice of Mitchell as his starter.

When Billick was asked what he sees in Mitchell that the rest of the league apparently doesn't, he said, "I don't know if it's a matter of the rest of the league. I think you guys [reporters] have taken a little bit of a jump here."

Although Mitchell, 31, threw for 32 touchdown passes in 1995 and 91 in his career, his Detroit stay was tarnished by failure to win a playoff game or make the Pro Bowl. He's also remembered for a meltdown during a 1995 playoff game in Philadelphia when he threw four interceptions in a 58-37 loss.

His career in Detroit essentially ended when he threw an overtime interception to Cincinnati's Corey Sawyer, who ran it back for a game-winning touchdown in the second game last year. That led coach Bobby Ross to bench him for rookie Charlie Batch.

Billick, though, noted that Mitchell had more success against the Vikings than any other quarterback they faced in his tenure with the team as an assistant coach, including the Green Bay Packers' Brett Favre. Mitchell passed for 410 yards against the Vikings in a 44-38 victory in 1995 and drove the team 72 yards on a touchdown drive to post a 14-13 victory over the Vikings in 1997.

"I see Scott as obviously being big, physical, excellent vision, a very accurate quarterback that has a proven record in the National Football League with regards to being on a team that's been in the playoffs three out of five years," Billick said..

Billick, though, could be falling into the same trap that former Chicago Bears coach Dave Wannstedt did when he signed Detroit's Erik Kramer as a free agent because Kramer had played well against Wannstedt's defenses in Dallas and Chicago.

But Billick was quick to point out his success with quarterbacks such as Jim McMahon, Warren Moon and Randall Cunningham. "I've got a bit of a track record for taking some quarterbacks that people said couldn't play [and winning with them]," he said.

Billick also noted that Mitchell had to cope with coaching changes, different coordinators and different systems during his tenure in Detroit. He said all the adversity Mitchell faced in Detroit may have matured him.

"I'm not going to get into whether it [criticism] has been justified, but he's been pretty resilient and fought through it pretty well. I think he's showed some class in handling it the way he did," Billick said.

Mitchell now gets a chance to jump-start his career in Baltimore, and Billick gets the chance to prove he can win with a quarterback off the NFL scrap heap.

"I think Scott Mitchell can be the kind of quarterback we need to win," Billick said.

Wire reports contributed to this article.

Vikings conqueror

One reason Ravens coach Brian Billick is so high on Scott Mitchell is that he played well several times against Minnesota when Billick was a Vikings assistant coach. Mitchell's statistics in those seven games:

Yr Result A-C Yds TD Int

'94 L, 10-3 18-40 212 0............. 1

'95 L, 20-10 27-47 279 1 1

W, 44-38 30-45 410 4.............. 1

'96 L, 17-13 20-41 260 1 4

L, 24-22 21-31 250 1............. 0

'97 W, 38-15 21-29 271 2 0

W, 14-13 23-38 255 2 .............1

Scott Mitchell file

Position: Quarterback.

Age: 31. Height: 6-6. Weight: 230. Years pro: 9.

College: Utah. Drafted: 1990 by Miami, fourth round, 93rd pick overall.

Career highlights 1993: Started seven of 13 games he played in. Earned AFC Player of the Month honors for October after taking over for injured Dan Marino.

1994: Beat Atlanta in opener, becoming first to win in debut as Lions QB since Eric Hipple in 1991. Was 18-for-27 for 246 yards and two TDs on Oct. 9 vs. San Francisco in his best performance of year. Placed on IR for rest of season after breaking right wrist Nov. 6 at Green Bay.

1995: Started all 16 games and set Lions records for completions (346), attempts (583), passing yards (4,338) and TD passes (32). Set career mark for longest TD pass on 91-yard scoring strike with Brett Perriman on Dec. 23 at Tampa Bay. Threw for club-record 410 yards vs. Minnesota on Nov. 23.

1996: Threw for 2,917 yards and 17 TDs. Had two 300-yard passing games in 14 games he started. Missed two games with rib injury.

1997: Threw for 3,484 yards, second-highest total in Lions history. Exceled in final six games, completing 114 of 183 passes (62.3 percent) for 1,376 yards and eight TDs. One of 10 quarterbacks to start all 16 games that season.

1998: Benched after Week 2.

Pub Date: 3/17/99

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