Hoping to dispel any lingering doubts about the state of his health, four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Peter Boulware will work out in Tallahassee, Fla., on Thursday for teams that might be interested in signing him.
The group audition, arranged by agent Roosevelt Barnes so that his client would not have to repeat the process for various suitors, comes as Boulware continues his recovery from knee and toe surgeries. Seven teams are expected to attend the session, and Barnes said Boulware feels confident that he will perform well.
"First off, he feels really good, and Pete has been working hard in pointing toward this," Barnes said. "Plus, he's got a little chip on his shoulder, you know? I think he feels like his resume should speak for itself but, if this is what it's going to take to answer any of [the teams'] concerns, well, he's ready to do it. He feels like he's ready to play and that teams will walk away [from the workout] having confirmed that."
Released by the Baltimore Ravens in early May, after the two sides could not come to an agreement on a restructured contract, Boulware visited over the past six weeks with the Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns and Seattle Seahawks. All three teams retain interest in him and all are expected to be represented at the workout. No team has made a contract offer to Boulware, and all suitors have indicated they wanted to wait until this month to get a better feel for the status of his recovery.
If healthy, Boulware can be an effective player, at worst as a situational pass-rusher, 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. He has also had "microfracture" knee surgery.
Barnes originally fielded inquires from 14 teams about his client, but Boulware has done as much due diligence on potential employers as they've done on him. Barnes reiterated on Wednesday that his client's preference is to sign a contract before camps open.
"This [workout] should move things toward some sort of resolution," Barnes said. "It should be, at least from what teams have said they want to see, the final puzzle piece."
There have been suggestions that Seattle is the front-runner for Boulware's services, because his younger brother, Michael Boulware, is a strong safety with the Seahawks. The Seahawks also signed linebacker Jamie Sharper, a onetime Baltimore teammate and a close friend of Boulware, this spring.
But Boulware has solid relationships on other teams, as well, and it would be naïve 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.
It is not yet known what teams, beyond the three with whom Boulware has visited, will attend the workout.
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, 67 ½ 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.