Boulware likely must prove health before offers
With even his most ardent suitors still harboring concerns about his recovery from knee and toe surgeries, four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Peter Boulware is considering having a workout this month for all the teams that have indicated an interest in him.
The workout, if arranged, would probably come in the next few weeks, before training camps open leaguewide.
"It's obvious Pete is going to have to go out and show teams that he's healthy before they offer him a contract," acknowledged agent Roosevelt Barnes. "And if that's the case, then I'd rather have him do it one time, for everyone, rather than have to go through a series of these things. Like a come-one-come-all kind of thing. That's the way we're thinking now, if we can set it up at a time and place that works for everybody."
Released by the Baltimore Ravens in early May, after the two sides could not come to an agreement on a restructured contract, Boulware visited the past month with the Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns and Seattle Seahawks. All three teams retain interest in him, but none has made a contract offer, and all indicated they wanted to wait until this month to get a better feel for the status of Boulware's recovery.
If there is a group workout, it is all but a given the session would draw personnel scouts from other curious clubs, as well. If healthy, Boulware can be an effective player, and he is one of the few potential impact veterans still without a contract.
Boulware, 30, spent the entire 2004 season on the physically unable to perform list as he attempted to recover from a knee injury sustained in the penultimate game of the 2003 campaign. He underwent toe surgery last December, the result of a November injury sustained in his first practice of the year, as he attempted to work his way off the NFL's physically unable to perform list.
Barnes originally fielded inquires from 14 teams about his client, but Boulware has done as much due diligence on potential employers as they have done on him. Barnes said that his client's preference is to sign a contract before camps open.
"He's not one of those guys who wants to sit around and wait for some team to suffer an injury, and then come after him," Barnes said. "He'd rather be with somebody right from the beginning of camp. He just wants a team to want him, that's all."
There have been suggestions that Seattle is the front-runner for his services, because his younger brother, Michael Boulware, is a strong safety with the Seahawks. The Seahawks also signed linebacker Jamie Sharper, a one-time Baltimore teammate, this spring.
But Boulware has solid relationships on other teams, as well, and it would be na´ve to believe finances won't be a factor in his plans for the future. He was scheduled to earn a $6 million base salary with the Ravens and reportedly rejected a restructuring that would have paid him $2 million with the chance to make an additional $2 million in incentives.
New Browns general manager Phil Savage is the former personnel director in Baltimore and knows Boulware well. Cornerback Gary Baxter, who spent the first four years of his career in Baltimore before signing with Cleveland as a free agent earlier this offseason, has been regularly phoning Boulware to recruit him. The Texans, like the Browns, play a 3-4 scheme, a front in which Boulware has been successful, and want to upgrade their pass rush for 2005.
Discounting the injury factor, Boulware has a superior resume of all of the outside linebackers left in free agency, a group that also includes Kevin Hardy, Anthony Simmons, T.J. Slaughter and Jason Gildon. He is the leading sacker in Ravens history and, until the knee injury late in '03, he had never missed a regular-season contest.
The Ravens' first-round choice in the 1997 draft, and the fourth overall player selected that year, Boulware appeared in 111 games and started 102 of them. He registered 487 tackles, 67½ sacks, 18 passes defensed, one interception, 13 fumbles forced and five fumble recoveries. Three times in his career, the former Florida State star has rung up double-digit sacks, with a career high of 15 in 2001.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .
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