(OWINGS MILLS, Md.) - Elvis Grbac, signed a year ago to upgrade the Baltimore Ravens' offense, was released by the team on Friday as the team continued its purge of veterans.
Grbac, who left the Kansas City Chiefs as a free agent last March to sign a five-year, $30 million deal with the Ravens, opted to leave the team rather than accept a restructured contract. He would have received a $6 million bonus if he was on Baltimore's roster as of 4 p.m. Friday.
``We're disappointed for us and for Elvis,'' Ravens coach Brian Billick said. ``We thought a new contract would not only give us obvious help with our salary cap, but benefit Elvis too. We were looking forward to facing the challenges of next season, when we believed he would play at a higher level for us.''
The Ravens signed Grbac less than three months after defeating the New York Giants in the 2001 Super Bowl. He was supposed to provide more offensive punch that his predecessor, Trent Dilfer, but threw 18 interceptions compared to 15 touchdown passes.
Although Grbac's 71.1 rating was 24th among NFL quarterbacks, Billick repeatedly stood by the maligned nine-year veteran. But Grbac's hefty contract, his inconsistent play and the fact that Baltimore entered the offseason some $20 million over the salary cap all contributed his departure.
The move was not entirely unexpected.
Ozzie Newsome, the team's personnel director, warned Tuesday that Grbac would not be retained unless he redid his contract.
Grbac's exit leaves Baltimore with two options at quarterback _ veteran Randall Cunningham, who turns 39 this month, and Chris Redman, who has thrown three passes over two NFL seasons. The team could also sign a veteran _ Dilfer, who quarterbacked the Super Bowl victory, is a free agent.
``Chris clearly has potential and will be given the opportunity to challenge for the starting job,'' Billick said. ``I've had discussions with Randall Cunningham, and he has shown an interest in playing again with us. But, he's a free agent right now.
``As with a good portion of our roster, much will happen before we go to training camp.''
The Ravens will likely add a veteran quarterback or two before then. Since the team began play in Baltimore in 1996 there has been a long list of starters at the position, including Vinny Testaverde, Jim Harbaugh, Eric Zeier, Stoney Case, Tony Banks, Scott Mitchell and Dilfer.
Grbac was supposed to stop the revolving door. But he never justified his sizable contract, going 8-6 as a starter during the regular season while committing 23 turnovers (including five fumbles).
The Ravens hoped to retain him anyway, but couldn't crunch the numbers to Grbac's liking. Grbac's agent, Jim Steiner, did not immediately return phone calls Friday.
Grbac follows Sam Adams, Shannon Sharpe, Rod Woodson and Rob Burnett as former Pro Bowl players released by the Ravens this week. Super Bowl champs a year ago and good enough to reach the second round of the playoffs in 2002, Baltimore is now in a serious rebuilding mode.
``I have supreme confidence in Ozzie and Brian and their staffs,'' owner Art Modell said. ``They've assembled and coached a championship team once before. We will do it again. What we're going through right now is part of the new NFL process.''