NASHVILLE, Tenn. (June 8, 2006) -- Steve McNair is the new starting quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens.
McNair passed his physical and immediately jumped to the top of the depth chart ahead of Kyle Boller. The Ravens called a late afternoon press conference to announce McNair's long-awaited arrival via a trade with the Tennessee Titans.
The Titans swapped the longtime face of their franchise and a fan favorite for what is believed to be a fourth-round pick in next spring's draft.
The former league MVP is expected to upgrade a position that has been filled over the past 10 years by numerous quarterbacks with lesser credentials than McNair, a three-time Pro Bowler.
A strained right pectoral kept McNair out of Tennessee's regular-season finale, and the Titans wanted him to take a new physical before working out with them again. But Ravens coach Brian Billick, knowing McNair needed to pass the physical to complete the trade, had no such worries.
"As I understand it, he was cleared to play in the Pro Bowl," Billick said. "That one, I'll leave it to a higher pay grade than me to figure out how someone can fail an exit physical but be cleared to play in the Pro Bowl. I'm a little confused about that myself."
McNair missed two games in 2005 after missing eight in 2004 and needing surgery to repair his aching sternum. McNair was left home on a road trip to Arizona to avoid aggravating his back on the long flight because he had a discectomy in 1999, and he strained his pectoral muscle at the end of the season.
Ravens receiver Derrick Mason, cut by Tennessee in a salary cap-move in February 2005, believes his friend has plenty left after watching McNair a couple times last season. McNair threw for 3,161 yards and 16 touchdowns with 11 interceptions.
"I figure he's still got two, three, four years left in him if he doesn't take the shots that he did in previous years," Mason said.
McNair, who turned 33 in February, was Tennessee's winningest quarterback in franchise history. In 11 seasons, he went 81-59 and shared the MVP award with Peyton Manning three years ago.
He's one of only four players in NFL history with 150 touchdowns passing and 35 rushing, trailing only Steve Young, Randall Cunningham and Steve Grogan. He's one of five with 25,000 yards passing and 3,000 yards rushing, a group that includes John Elway, Fran Tarkenton, Young and Randall Cunningham.
During his MVP season, McNair had a 100.4 passer rating and led the Titans to a wild-card playoff victory over the Ravens in Baltimore and came up short on a late drive in a divisional loss at New England.
The trade gives the Ravens the first star quarterback, with McNair expected to start for the team that ended the Titans' bid for a second straight Super Bowl appearance in 2001. That loss is merely one piece of the former AFC Central rivalry featuring physical games and trash-talking between the coaches.
"You can tell that from his mannerisms on the field and how he portrays and handles himself. He definitely brings some stability to the quarterback position," said tight end Todd Heap, who played with McNair in the Pro Bowl.
Boller, the Ravens' incumbent QB, conceded that McNair would likely be the starter.
"I'm just out here competing and trying to get this offense where it needs to be," Boller said. "I'm going about my business right now like I'm the starter. That's the only way I can think of it."
The trade resulted from the Titans' inability to reduce McNair's $9 million salary for 2006 and his $23.46 million salary cap hit resulting from reworking his contract repeatedly in recent years.
The quarterback won a grievance that allowed him to return to the team's headquarters and work out after being told he couldn't on April 3.
But the Titans had given McNair's agent permission to talk with Baltimore on April 30 about a contract, and Bus Cook worked out a five-year deal with an $11 million signing bonus and $1 million salary for 2006.
That was much more than McNair could get from the Titans, who had drafted quarterback Vince Young of Texas with the third overall pick in April. The Titans declined to comment after issuing a brief statement announcing the trade.
"The bottom line is, it's in everybody's best interest to look to the future and not to the past," Cook said.