Ray may compete for backup post

The New York Jets signed former CFL star quarterback Ricky Ray on Friday, a move that further hints Vinny Testaverde will likely retire in coming weeks.

Updated: February 27, 2004, 5:02 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

The New York Jets signed former CFL star quarterback Ricky Ray on Friday, a move that further hints Vinny Testaverde will likely retire in coming weeks.

Ray, 24, worked out for at least a dozens teams over the past two months, after leading the Edmonton Eskimos to the Grey Cup championship in 2003. He received legitimate interest from three or four teams but, in the last week, it appeared the Jets had gained the upper hand in negotiations.

Contract terms were not immediately available.

Under terms of an agreement between the two leagues, Ray, as a veteran entering the option year of his CFL contract, had until Sunday to sign with an NFL team. After that, his contractual rights would have reverted to the Eskimos. But both Ray and agent Ken Staninger had made it clear the player's preference was to move to the NFL.

The former Sacramento State standout, who had a brief fling with the San Francisco 49ers in 2001, completed 348 of 515 passes for 4,640 yards last season. He threw 35 touchdown passes and just 13 interceptions. At 6-feet-3 and 210 pounds, it appears Ray possesses NFL size but there are scouts who feel that he needs to improve his arm strength on some throws.

In two seasons in the CFL, he led the Eskimos to a pair of division champions, Grey Cup appearances in consecutive years, and then the title in 2003.

With the pending retirement of Testaverde, there is some thought Ray can challenge for the top backup spot behind Chad Pennington, but those assessments might be premature. For now, it appears the backup job belongs to second-year pro Brooks Bollinger, a sixth-round pick in the 2003 draft.

In addition to the acquisition of Ray, the Jets released corner Aaron Beasley and accepted the retirement of guard Dave Szott on Friday. A 14-year veteran, Szott has been beset by injuries over the latter part of a standout career, but did start 15 games in 2003. The release of Beasley, an eight-year veteran who played the past two seasons in New York and started 31 of a possible 32 games, was not a surprise.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.

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