Wednesday, June 07, 2006

McNair Dealt to Ravens

The speculation has become reality. As soon as Steve McNair passes a physical, he will be traded to the Baltimore Ravens for a reported fourth-round draft pick in 2007. The pick could be a third rounder depending on playing time and performance issues.

The Tennessee Titans released a statement Wednesday talking about McNair's departure. "We have granted permission to Baltimore to give Steve McNair a physical, which we expect to take place in the next 24 hours," the Titans said in the statement. "Upon passing a physical, final trade terms will be agreed upon."

Thus ends the tenure of McNair in Tennessee - the face of the Titans franchise for 10 years. And what an inglorious ending it was.

McNair played hurt, played hard and gave it his all in every game. He led the Titans to their only Super Bowl berth in 1999 and was the unquestioned leader of the franchise. How was he rewarded? By being banned from the practice facility during the off season. McNair filed a grievance and won, but the Titans responded by issuing a statement that McNair couldn't practice or workout until he passed a physical.

That treatment, plus salary cap issues (McNair had a $23 million dollar cap number), spelled the end for the Alcorn State product. No one is happier than Brian Billick and the Baltimore Ravens, who were after him since April.

During the second day of the NFL draft in April, the Titans gave Bus Cook, NcNair's agent, permission to talk to the Ravens about a new contract. Cook worked out a deal that gave him an $11 million signing bonus and a $1 million base salary. That was more than the $9 million he was scheduled to make in base salary for the Ravens in 2006.

The three-time pro bowl selection could be the missing piece in the Raven puzzle. Long known for its defense, which is still solid even with age finally hitting Ray Lewis, Baltimore may finally have the offense it needs to contend for the Super Bowl once again.

With Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Chris McAlister manning the defense, a solid running game with a healthy Jamal Lewis and newly acquired Mike Anderson, a receiving corps on the rise with Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton and a solid kicking game (Matt Stover) - the only question mark was at quarterback.

Kyle Boller has not lived up to his first-round status, but did show marked improvement toward the end of the year. Having McNair on board could be the best thing for Boller. The young guy had to start right away and didn't get a chance to learn and develop slowly. McNair can show Boller what it takes to be a top-flight signal caller in the NFL.

If he can stay healthy, look for 'Air McNair' to put up big numbers in 2006. He has the personnel around him to make the Ravens a scary team. The main problem is their division has the world champion Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals (AFC North champs) in it.

Regardless, McNair is a proven winner and leader and with a solid supporting cast behind, the Baltimore Ravens could emerge as the team to beat in the AFC.

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