Ravens make offer to Mitchell

The Ravens have made a substantial contract offer to unrestricted free agent Jeff Mitchell that could keep the veteran center from entering the free-agent market next month, according to his representative.

Ed Cunningham, Mitchell's agent, said yesterday he received the offer on Friday from Pat Moriarty, the team's director of football administration.


"I think they want Jeff to retire as a Raven," Cunningham said. "I would assume we would get it done before March 2. I don't know why we wouldn't get it done by then.

"But it doesn't mean if we step out there [into the free-agent market], if it goes past then, that Jeff won't be a Raven."


The Super Bowl champion Ravens are the only team that can negotiate with Mitchell until March 2, when he becomes eligible to sign with any team in the NFL.

Cunningham said the offer clearly shows the team's intent for the 27-year-old center.

"We've got a ways to go, but it's an offer that shows they definitely want to keep him," he said.

Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel, acknowledged the team has started negotiations with "some" of its 14 unrestricted free agents, but declined to divulge which ones.

Among those with whom the Ravens have not formally launched talks are quarterback Trent Dilfer and outside linebacker Jamie Sharper.

"I've been told they'd contact me when their evaluations are finished," said Mike Sullivan, who represents Dilfer. "I've put a call in to them, but have not yet heard back."

Dilfer went 11-1 -- winning the last 11 games -- after replacing Tony Banks as the starter in Week 9.

Meanwhile, Tony Agnone, the agent for Sharper, said he visited with the team last week but did not submit a contract proposal.


"They haven't made me an offer," Agnone said. "They have until March 2 to make an offer. Certainly, we will visit on it at some time or another."

The Ravens completed evaluations of their own players last week, Newsome said, and have begun to assess the list of players expected to become available March 2.

"The key issue is how the potential UFAs [unrestricted free agents] stack up with the players we have on our team, especially our own UFAs," he said.

The Ravens also have begun the process of restructuring existing deals to accommodate the league's new salary cap of $67.4 million for the 2001 season.

Defensive tackle Tony Siragusa is among a group of players who have agreed to restructure their contracts to enable the team to sign free agents.

According to agent Terry Lavenstein, Siragusa got a one-year extension on a three-year deal he signed last August after a lengthy training camp holdout. Scheduled to make $2.5 million in 2001, Siragusa will get $2 million in a guaranteed signing bonus with a base of $500,000.


Although the Ravens had the second-highest payroll in the NFL last season, Newsome said they will meet the March 1 deadline to reach this year's salary cap.

"On March 1, when we have to be under, we will be under the cap," he said. "It will enable us to sign potential UFAs."

In addition to restructuring some deals, Newsome said some players will be released and others will be required to take a salary cut for the team to get under the cap.

Official business

The Ravens will visit Annapolis this morning to express their appreciation for the support of the Maryland legislature and Maryland citizens. Their entourage will include team owner Art Modell, team president David Modell, coach Brian Billick and Newsome.

The group will appear on the Senate floor at 10 a.m. and visit the House of Delegates' chamber at 10:20. At 10:45, it will visit Gov. Parris Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.


Later in the day, Billick will address the Maryland basketball team before the Terps play North Carolina State at Cole Field House. Coach Gary Williams invited Billick to talk to the team.

NFL Europe allocations

The Ravens have allocated seven players to NFL Europe teams, including three-year veteran offensive tackle Sammy Williams, who will play for Berlin.

Others allocated are defensive tackle Kelly Gregg and running back Jason Brookins to Rhine; linebacker Calvin Wilkinson and wide receiver Linton Coleman to Frankfurt; and defensive back Evan Howell and linebacker Oladele "Brendan" Ayanbadejo to Amsterdam. Ayanbadejo is the brother of Ravens fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo.