|Friday, March 1
Updated: March 2, 11:22 AM ET
Grbac's release latest move in dismantling Ravens
By Len Pasquarelli and John Clayton
INDIANAPOLIS -- The former rock-and-roller after whom he was named was notorious for needing dozens of takes to wrap a movie scene but, suddenly queued up with a legion of other unemployed quarterbacks, Elvis Grbac might get things right just the second time around.
Released by the Baltimore Ravens on Friday afternoon after he refused to grant the team all of the financial concessions it requested, Grbac could visit with Cincinnati officials next week, taking a second look at a club he rebuffed last year in free agency.
The Bengals are one of about a half-dozen teams seeking to make a quarterback change, and are as ardent about Grbac now as they were a year ago, when Cincinnati finally settled on Jon Kitna as its starter. Kitna was characteristically inconsistent in 2001 and, while Bengals officials still publicly offer support when asked about his future, it is obvious a change is in the wind.
Team officials spoke with Grbac's agent, Jim Steiner, on Friday evening.
Lack of production wasn't as much a factor in Grbac's departure from the Ravens, a move that simply continued a systematic dismantling of the Super Bowl XXXV champions, as was money. As he crossed a downtown street in Indianapolis Friday afternoon, Ravens vice president of personnel Ozzie Newsome could only manage a wry grin at what has transpired with his team this week.
Only one season removed from a league title, the Ravens were forced by cap excesses to release seven players, allow another two to escape in the expansion draft, decline to exercise the option on a veteran offensive lineman, and decline qualifying offers for three youngsters.
There had been guarded optimism the past few days that Baltimore and Grbac would come to an accommodation that would enable the nine-year veteran to remain with the Ravens, but the two sides could not hammer out an understanding.
"We got close but not close enough," Newsome said. "We just couldn't make the numbers fit."
Under the terms of Grbac's contract signed last year, when he replaced Trent Dilfer as the starter, he was to receive a roster bonus of $6 million on Saturday. His base salary for 2002 was to have been $1.5 million. Baltimore requested that he play for $2.5 million in 2002, a roster bonus of $1.85 million and base salary of $650,000.
Grbac told the team he would play for a total of $4 million between the bonus and base salary.
"We didn't view a $5 million reduction as being fair," Steiner said. "How do you accept a pay cut like that, then go back and try to look your teammates in the eyes, huh? It doesn't work. We were willing to help them to a point but not to the degree they were asking."
The two sides worked for several days on trying to fashion a deal and finally gave up about a half-hour before the 4 p.m. deadline. Had Grbac been on the roster after that, the Ravens would have been liable for the $6 million bonus.
The former University of Michigan standout signed a five-year, $30 million contract last spring, but the deal was cleverly structured by Ravens negotiator Pat Moriarty to provide the team an escape after one year. Grbac started 14 games for the Ravens and completed 265 of 467 passes for 3,033 yards, with 15 touchdown passes and 18 interceptions.
He did not endear himself to teammates, who had rallied around Dilfer in 2000, and at times appeared to lack pocket presence. Still, coach Brian Billick had insisted after the season Grbac would return, a statement that didn't sit well with some players and even some high-ranking people in the Baltimore front office.
"We're disappointed," Billick said, "but it's a situation we couldn't avoid."
When he arrived in Baltimore and signed free agent Scott Mitchell, a move that puzzled some fans, Billick told the city to trust him, because "I know quarterbacks." Now he faces the specter of a fourth different starter in four seasons.
The heir apparent is two-year veteran Chris Redman, a former Louisville standout and a third-round choice in the 2000 draft. Redman has seen sparse action in two seasons. The Ravens will probably retain veteran Randall Cunningham as well.
When Billick met with Grbac a few weeks ago to explore contract options he told him that, even with a reworking of the deal, the incumbent might have to vie with Redman for the starter's job. There will be competition now, with Redman a clear-cut favorite, although the Ravens may still sign a quarterback in free agency.
Now the competition shifts to Grbac, who must find a new home in a glutted market, and who might view the Bengals in a different light this year.
Len Pasquarelli and John Clayton are senior NFL writers for ESPN.com.