The Ravens will take a dip into the free-agent waters with a visit from cornerback Corey Fuller today before making their much-anticipated plunge for wide receiver David Boston.
Team officials have scheduled their first meeting of the free-agency period with Fuller, an eight-year starter with the Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns, and are trying to finalize plans to bring in Boston this week. Boston, 24, yesterday visited the San Diego Chargers, who might be the Ravens' chief competition for him.
The only elite receiver on the market, Boston also reportedly is being pursued by the Atlanta Falcons and would have a longer list of suitors if he didn't carry so much baggage. A year removed from leading the league in receiving yards, Boston is coming off a season-ending knee injury and is dealing with legal problems.
So, as they prepare to welcome Boston to town, the Ravens have to determine whether they want to make an investment (perhaps as much as a $10 million signing bonus) in such a high-risk, high-reward playmaker.
"To address our need at receiver, David Boston is the most viable guy there," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "The key becomes, given where he is at right now, what team is willing to leave themselves vulnerable with the up-front money. That truly is the issue. His ability to play is unquestioned. What it will come down to is what his and our comfort zone look like on paper contractually."
With the Arizona Cardinals, Boston set franchise records for yards receiving (1,598) and receptions (98) in 2001 and, at 23, became the second-youngest player to reach 1,500 yards. But knee and foot injuries limited him to 32 catches for 512 yards and one touchdown last year and led to knee surgery at the end of November.
To compound matters, Boston pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence last March. He also tested positive for marijuana and cocaine, according to Phoenix police.
"He could have the world by its tail if he lives to the age of 30," Cardinals defensive line coach Joe Greene told USA Today.
Besides Boston, the other free agent on the Ravens' radar is Fuller, who played in Minnesota from 1995 to 1998 when Billick was the Vikings' offensive coordinator. In eight seasons, he has averaged 58 tackles, 11 1/2 passes broken up and two interceptions.
Fuller, 31, intrigues the Ravens because of his ability to play cornerback or safety. That could be key this season because the Ravens want to keep Gary Baxter at cornerback but still feel that safety could be his best position.
"When I think about the passion it takes to play this game, Corey is one who comes to mind," Billick said. "We're very interested in Corey, because he can do a lot of things for us. By his presence and the way he approaches the game, he would instantaneously add to our leadership."
Meanwhile, the Ravens reported no progress in talks with quarterback Jeff Blake. Billick, though, did attempt to clear up matters when he had lunch with Blake on Thursday.
"I've been surprised before, but Jeff truly believes this is the place for him to solidify himself [as an NFL starter]," Billick said. "There's no guarantees. Everybody knows that. That doesn't rule out Chris Redman by any stretch of the imagination. It doesn't mean we won't still look at a veteran quarterback and it doesn't mean we might not take a quarterback with the first pick [in the draft].
"I made that very clear to Jeff that we're talking about Jeff Blake and the Baltimore Ravens and what you can do to make us a championship club. We're not adopting you. Like every player, you have to compete. He responded very well to that."
NOTE: The agent for Ravens free-agent linebacker Cornell Brown said strides have been made toward his client's returning to the team. "We've had productive conversations with Baltimore," Joel Segal said, "but we have talked with other teams." The Jacksonville Jaguars reportedly have expressed interest in Brown. ... The Ravens are looking to meet with offensive tackle Orlando Brown, who played for the team from 1996 to 1998. He would be brought in to compete for the starting right tackle position. ... The Miami Dolphins have expressed interest in Ravens free-agent receiver Brandon Stokley. ... Former Ravens return specialist Jermaine Lewis visited Cincinnati yesterday, and former Ravens defensive tackle Sam Adams reportedly has offered a three-year, cap-friendly proposal to the Bengals. ... The Ravens officially announced that they gave a one-year contract tender of $1.3 million to Redman, a restricted free agent. That means the Ravens would receive a first-round pick as compensation if they chose not to match another team's offer sheet for Redman. Contrary to previous reports, the team tendered defensive end Adalius Thomas a one-year contract worth $605,000 and would receive only a sixth-round pick as compensation.