Representatives of St. Louis Cardinals owner William Bidwill and the Maryland Stadium Authority have begun preliminary discussions that the authority's chairman hopes will lead to the National Football League franchise moving to Baltimore.

Herbert Belgrad, the Baltimore attorney who chairs the stadium authority, said his group met with Bidwill's financial consultants in Baltimore on Wednesday. Belgrad said further meetings are planned, but as yet unscheduled.

Belgrad said Bidwill's representatives looked "at our financing program and what Baltimore had to offer." As it did with the Orioles on planning a new baseball stadium, Belgrad said the stadium authority wanted the new football tenant to participate in planning the football stadium.

He said that public funds would not necessarily pay "for everything {Bidwill} wants" and that "costs allocations and revenue allocations" were discussed with Bidwill's representatives, the ones who had recommended Bidwill reject an offer by St. Louis County to build a new stadium there.

Belgrad said Baltimore is flexible on lease arrangements but would not get into a bidding war with Jacksonville or Phoenix. The Maryland authority has attempted to get copies of stadium leases throughout the NFL, as well as proposals by cities seeking a franchise. "In development of a lease proposal we want to propose the average {lease}," Belgrad said. "We're flexible but looking around the median."

Bidwill has said he must notify the NFL by Jan. 15 if he firmly intends to move his team . . .

Meanwhile, the Cardinals and the NFL have a more immediate matter at hand. Quarterback Kelly Stouffer, the lone remaining first-round holdout from April's draft, said his lawyers will sue the team and the league early next week in an attempt to be declared a free agent.

Stouffer, from Colorado State, was the sixth choice overall in the draft. The Cardinals have offered him $1.8 million over four years plus an option year with a 10 percent raise that would bring the package to $2.27 million for five years. Stouffer is seeking $2.2 million for four years.