After enduring months of turmoil - from an underachieving 6-10 season to coach Brian Billick's being on the hot seat to linebacker Ray Lewis' public criticism of the team - the Ravens are on the brink of acquiring the most decorated quarterback in franchise history.
The deal would become official today once he passes a physical examination administered by Ravens doctors. Results will not be complete until this morning, but team sources said there are "absolutely" no concerns about McNair's health despite an injury-filled career.
"I think this team, right now, has a great chance at getting back to the Super Bowl, and that's what you want to be a part of," said McNair, who arrived at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport about 6 p.m. yesterday, wearing a matching gray shirt and slacks as well as a broad smile.
"I've gone to the Super Bowl, but you want to win it. That's why my decision was so easy to come here and be a part of this team. They have the caliber of team to make it to the Super Bowl for the next couple of years."
Ravens officials plan to introduce McNair at a news conference today and expect him to suit up for the team's final minicamp next week.
Yesterday will be remembered as one of the most emotional afternoons in any Ravens offseason.
It began with Lewis expressing regret over his comments about some of his teammates and venting his frustration over losing. It ended with the Ravens filling a decade-long void at quarterback with a player long respected by the team.
"He's a warrior," Lewis said. "I don't know what person wouldn't like a warrior on his ballclub."
The trade ends a long wait for the Ravens, who had targeted McNair since January.
The Ravens reached an agreement in principle on a five-year contract with McNair at the end of April, when they received permission from the Titans to speak to him. McNair, 33, will receive an $11 million signing bonus and earn $1 million in base salary this season.
Known for his strong arm and will, McNair is widely considered to be the pivotal addition that turns the Ravens from a last-place club into a playoff team. He will replace former first-round pick Kyle Boller, who has been inconsistent during his three-year career.
"I think [McNair] gives us leadership that we need. He's a competitor," said Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle, who played with McNair for seven seasons in Tennessee. "Everybody knows we definitely underachieved, going 6-10 with the type of talent we've got. I don't think we can have a season like we had last year. Having him, it definitely won't happen again.
"In the players' mind, this would put us over the top."
The agreement between the Ravens and Titans ended a 38-day stalemate in trade talks. Tennessee eventually accepted the offer that the Ravens have had on the table for four weeks, a Ravens source said.
During that time, McNair won a grievance against the Titans to return to their training facility last week but was turned away again Monday when the team indicated that he needed to take another physical.
According to a Ravens source, agent Bus Cook told Titans general manager Floyd Reese yesterday that the team had no shot at retaining McNair and asked whether a deal could be worked out with the Ravens. Tennessee is only $112,000 under the NFL salary cap and needed McNair to restructure his contact or leave the team in order to have enough money to sign its draft picks. By trading McNair, the team gains $9 million in salary cap room.
By the end of yesterday's practice, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome received a call from Reese and the teams quickly agreed on a trade.
"It's been inevitable," Cook said. "Economically, Tennessee was strapped and was incapable of giving what the Ravens could. The Ravens' determination in setting his market value was more than what Tennessee could have ever offered."
McNair had spent his entire 11-year career with the Titans franchise after being the third selection overall in the 1995 draft by the then-Houston Oilers.
During the 1999 season, McNair guided Tennessee to the Super Bowl, losing to the St. Louis Rams, and he shared the league's MVP award with Peyton Manning in 2003. McNair was a Pro Bowl selection in 2000, 2003 and 2005.
Since McNair took over as the Titans' full-time starter in 1997, the Ravens have had 13 starting quarterbacks, including 10 in the Billick era (1999 to present).
"He definitely brings some stability to the quarterback position," said tight end Todd Heap, who played with McNair in the Pro Bowl.
The Ravens' first non-draft day trade since a failed deal for receiver Terrell Owens in March 2004 reunites McNair with his favorite receiver, Derrick Mason, who signed with the Ravens last year. McNair has connected with Mason for 29 touchdown passes, the most he has thrown to one receiver.
"I think he's got a lot left in him," Mason said. "He had a great season last year. I saw a couple of games, and it looked like the Steve of old."
A one-time bitter rival of the Ravens, McNair received an immediate warm welcome at the airport. He signed autographs for fans while waiting for his bags.
"I don't think I've seen him this enthused since early in his career," said Robert Gaddy, McNair's longtime bodyguard. "He's been grinning like that the whole way here. He's ecstatic to be a Baltimore Raven now.
"The whole plane was jumping all the way here. People are ecstatic; all of the Baltimore residents that he met seem happy that he's here."
McNair underwent a physical last night at an undisclosed hospital. It was expected to take six to eight hours, considering his medical history.
He has had at least six surgeries involving his right knee, lower back, left big toe, right shoulder, left ankle and sternum.
McNair gained a reputation for being among the toughest NFL quarterbacks by battling through pain and missing just 18 games in the past nine seasons.
He said he had no concerns about passing the physical.
"I knew that one day this day would come, and I wanted to be in the best shape of my life," McNair said. "I feel good about myself, no injuries whatsoever. I'm just looking forward to getting back on the field. I'm glad I'm here, I wanted to be here."
Sun reporter Lem Satterfield contributed to this article.
DEAL AT A GLANCE
THE TRADE --The Ravens will send a 2007 fourth-round draft pick to the Tennessee Titans.
THE CONTRACT --McNair has agreed to a five-year deal that includes an $11 million signing bonus and $1 million in the first year of the contract.
THE FINAL STEP --The deal will become official once McNair passes a physical administered by the Ravens' doctors last night. Results are not expected until this morning.