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Monday, March 18, 2002
Updated: March 19, 11:57 AM ET
Wolf turns down record offer from Blank

By Chris Mortensen and Len Pasquarelli

ORLANDO -- Despite strong consideration of an offer that would have paid him $4 million annually to end his one-year hiatus from the league, former Green Bay general manager Ron Wolf has declined the opportunity to assume control of the Atlanta Falcons operation.

Wolf informed new Falcons owner Arthur Blank of his decision late Tuesday morning.

"I enjoy what I'm doing," said Wolf, who on Monday was offered a contract that could have been for four years and worth $16 million. "It's obvious (Blank) wants to do things the right way and I'm flattered he thought enough to consider me."

Blank denied a report by ESPN and that he had offered the position to Wolf, but sources with knowledge of the negotiations insisted he was merely bantering semantics. It now appears that Blank will turn to Tampa Bay personnel director Tim Ruskell, who allowed Monday morning that he was "just waiting to see what happens (with Wolf)."

Ruskell has interviewed twice with Blank, the only candidate to have done so, and has spent 20 hours in talks with Falcons officials and representatives of the executive search firm aiding in the quest for a general manager. Ruskell recently spoke with former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, who last week became a Falcons minority partner and a member of the board of directors.

The deal offered Wolf would have been worth $9 million over two years if Wolf and Blank mutually decided to end the relationship at that point, and $13 million if Wolf departed after three years. Blank is said to have wanted Wolf for at least three seasons, sufficient time perhaps to reverse the Atlanta fortunes, and to get things in place for his successor.

Wolf likely would not have assumed the general manager position until May 1, which meant he would not have played a role in this year's draft.

It is believed the offer was the largest ever made to a general manager candidate. The six-year deal that Tampa Bay general manager Rich McKay signed last month is said to be worth $2.3 million per year. McKay was Blank's first choice for the Atlanta job. Wolf earned $2.3 million annually during his final three Packers seasons.

Never determined was the level of draft choice compensation the Falcons would have owed the Packers had Wolf accepted the Atlanta offer. Given that the Packers had not backed off their assertion that they would be due compensation if Wolf departed his current consultant job, that might have been the most difficult part of negotiations.

Wolf, 63, still has slightly more than two years remaining on his Green Bay contract, which pays him $500,000 annually for, in his words, "doing nothing." Ever since rumors surfaced during the season that Wolf might be tempted by some team to return to the league, Packers officials had been adamant that they would have to be compensated if he ended his hiatus.