The Ravens pulled their five-year, $23 million offer to linebacker Jamie Sharper off the table yesterday, a league source said.
Considered the best defensive player available in free agency, Sharper had appeared willing to accept the Ravens' latest proposal.
However, vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome denied the shelving of any offer and indicated Sharper remains a part of the team's plans.
"We are re-evaluating our situation with Jamie with the hopes of still being able to re-sign him," Newsome said. "It could come back to those numbers, but in a different structure."
There has been speculation that the Ravens fear overpaying Sharper. In this soft free-agent market, he has not commanded the same level of interest as he would have in previous years.
Sharper's agent, Tony Agnone, declined to talk about the pulling of any offers, but reiterated his feeling that some people may be underestimating the market.
"They [the Ravens] aren't bargaining against themselves, by no means," Agnone said. "That's a fallacy."
Sharper, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound weak-side linebacker, had put off a deal with the Seattle Seahawks while trying to finalize negotiations with the Ravens. Agnone said he has since talked with the Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers, Miami Dolphins and New York Giants.
As for the Ravens, Newsome said the team last discussed numbers with two of Agnone's associates Friday.
"Nothing was resolved," Newsome said. "There was no progress."
The Ravens' cautious approach toward Sharper comes in the wake of two impressive signings, those of quarterback Elvis Grbac and right tackle Leon Searcy. Now, the team needs to determine if it can find enough salary-cap room for Sharper.
To fit Searcy under the cap, the Ravens had to release three veteran backups - defensive end Keith Washington, defensive back Robert Bailey and receiver Billy Davis - all of whom were key special-teams players. Although the Ravens intend to re-sign those players, they would have to make further cuts in order to sign Sharper.
In his fourth season, Sharper played a major role on a defense that set an NFL record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game season (165). A second-round pick in 1997, he finished third on the Ravens in tackles (102).
"It's possible to sign him," Ravens owner Art Modell said. "We have to develop a plan that's workable for us and for him."