The Ravens threw their best - and apparently final - offer at unsigned draft choice Travis Taylor yesterday, then prepared to wait out a contract dispute that has turned ominous.
Calling Taylor to accountability, Ravens coach Brian Billick said the team has delivered its best offer to the 10th pick in the draft.
"We have put our best foot forward with regard to Travis Taylor," Billick said. "This afternoon, [Ravens chief negotiator] Pat Moriarty sat with Travis Taylor's representation and made it very clear what our position was, and this was our best effort."
The Ravens' best effort is a five-year deal worth just under $7.5 million with a signing bonus of $5 million and an incentives package. That offer falls between the contracts of ninth pick Brian Urlacher and 11th pick Ron Dayne in the NFL's slotting system.
Billick addressed the Taylor holdout after yesterday afternoon's practice for what he said would be the last time until there is a resolution. "We're not going to allow this thing to continue on in a circus atmosphere," he said. "The players we have deserve better than that."
Taylor's agent, Steve Weinberg, disputed that the Ravens' offer was, in fact, a slotted offer, and charged that Moriarty refused to negotiate in a two-hour meeting yesterday.
"I have pleaded with the Ravens to involve someone other than Pat Moriarty," Weinberg said. "It is the only way Travis Taylor can be signed to a contract.
"This is the most ridiculous and preposterous stance ever taken by an organization in dealing with a first-round player that I've seen in 20 years."
Ravens president David Modell fairly bristled at the suggestion someone other than Moriarty would negotiate with Weinberg.
"That's absurd," Modell said. "Numbers are numbers. Whether it's Pat Moriarty or our groundskeeper, Vince Patterozzi, the proposal on the table will never get any better. It's perfectly slotted, it's fair, and if accurately reported to his client, I'm sure would bring a favorable response."
Billick said the Ravens' history shows that the team will not submit to pressure tactics, pointing to the holdouts of Peter Boulware in 1997 and Duane Starks in '98.
"A prudent negotiator will look at history on both sides of the ball," Billick said. "Any individual who's gotten into negotiations and lasts and is of any caliber does that. 'Who am I negotiating with and what's their history?'
"Our history is very clear-cut. ... Even though those individuals [Boulware and Starks] held out for different periods of time, it's proven they did not gain one single penny more by the holdout than had they come into camp."
Billick said that after yesterday's meeting, there should be no mistaking the Ravens' bargaining stance on the rookie wide receiver.
"It's incomprehensible that they [Taylor's agents] don't," Billick said. "It's beyond the imagination if there's any ambiguity in their mind as to what our stance is."
Billick also indicated he was prepared to enter the season without the former Florida receiver.
"This ship is about ready to set sail," the coach said. "We're about ready to pull out of dock. I'm very comfortable with everybody that's on board right now.
"I promise you this: I owe it to this group of guys right here. I'm not letting anybody get on this ship with an ax and a life vest, where vested self-interest puts them in an environment that says, 'I'm with you all the way, right up to the point it gets hairy.' "
Asked if there was a deadline beyond which it was time to move on, Billick said, "I'll let you know. But we're getting damn close."
Weinberg said he attempted to accept less than the $5 million signing bonus in return for more back-end incentives, similar to the deal negotiated for running back Jamal Lewis, the team's other first-round pick this season, but was rebuffed.
Weinberg also said he would accept a deal similar to the one cornerback Chris McAlister signed as the 10th pick a year ago. McAlister got a four-year deal worth $6.3 million with a $3.75 million signing bonus. Weinberg said he wants a 3.5 percent increase over that deal, and "Travis Taylor will be in camp tomorrow."