Grbac ready to lead offense

The Ravens made quarterback their No. 1 priority in the off-season in hopes of improving an offense that struggled at times last year.

Elvis Grbac thinks he's just the man for the job.

A confident Grbac was introduced to the Baltimore media today – about 15 minutes later than scheduled because the former Kansas City Chief was signing his five-year, $30 million contract – and proclaimed himself ready to take the Ravens offense "to the next level."

"This is a great team," said Grbac, whose father was a big fan of "The King" and gave him his name. "I can make it better."

Grbac, 30, who was backup to Steve Young on the San Francisco 49ers when they won the Super Bowl in 1994, said the chance of getting back to the Super Bowl was the deciding factor in choosing Baltimore as his new home. He said he also wanted to play for an offensive-minded coach like Brian Billick and be part of the camaraderie last year's team was known for.

His visit last week and meeting with Billick sealed the deal.

"When I left, I knew right then and there," Grbac said. "Coming here was a no-brainer for me."

Grbac, who was born in Cleveland and still has family there, laughed when asked about their reaction of signing with the franchise that left Cleveland in 1996.

"People there are over it," he said.

Billick, a pass-happy coach by nature who was forced to use a more conservative approach last year, welcomed the opportunity to put the vertical passing game back in his arsenal. Since the Super Bowl, Billick and Vice President of Player Personnel Ozzie Newsome have said they didn't think the Ravens could return to the Super Bowl with the same style as last year.

"The status quo won't get the job done," Billick said. "[With Grbac] we can truly take this offense to a level that will augment one of the best defenses ever and get us back to the Super Bowl."

Grbac threw for a career-high 4,169 yards and 29 touchdowns last year with Kansas City. He has 50 touchdowns in the last two seasons and was among the league leaders last season in yardage, touchdown passes, quarterback rating, passes over 20 yards and 300-yard games.

"The thing that excites me the most is that he is just now reaching is full potential." Billick said of the eight-year veteran. "He has the tools to take over a Super Bowl championship team. That's not for someone who doesn't have a great deal of confidence."

Newsome said the team anticipated the Chiefs' decision to release Grbac because of salary cap reasons and had him and Brad Johnson rated as the top two quarterbacks available. Johnson signed with Tampa Bay Monday, a day before the Ravens agreed to terms with Grbac.

"We knew Grbac's situation," Newsome said. "We knew Kansas City had to make a decision."

Grbac's contract, which reportedly included a $5 million signing bonus and a $500,000 base salary for 2001, produced what Newsome called a "friendly cap number in the first year." That will allow the team salary cap room to attempt to re-sign some for their free agents or add others.

"Our first priority was quarterback," Newsome said. "This allows us to go out and upgrade our team in other areas."

Notes: Newsome acted dismayed at one of Grbac's answers. When asked about having Shannon Sharpe as a target, Grbac said, "He's going to catch a lot of passes." That drew the exaggerated reaction from Newsome, who holds the record for career receptions and yards by a tight end that Sharpe is chasing. Sharpe is 43 receptions and 187 yards behind Newsome. …Grbac was upbeat about working with backup Chris Redman. He said he hoped he could help Redman the way Young helped him was he backed up the superstar in San Francisco. … Grbac will wear No. 18 with the Ravens.