Depth at Tackle Suddenly Available

Due to a tight salary cap situation and an unwillingness to mortgage their financial future, the Baltimore Ravens are unable to retain another key free agent. Tony Pashos isn't Jonathan Ogden, but he's a pretty solid player at right tackle. Not only do the Bears need some depth along the offensive line, but Pashos played at Illinois and is a native of Palos Heights.

The dramatic improvement of offensive tackle Tony Pashos as a blocker is about to be rewarded, but it won't be with the Ravens.

Two days before the launch of the free agent signing period, Pashos' agent acknowledged that the gritty right tackle will not be returning to Baltimore.

Pashos' impending departure is for financial reasons, much like the decision the Ravens made to not use a $7.2 million franchise tag to retain All-Pro linebacker Adalius Thomas.

"The deal on Tony is he will no longer be a member of the Baltimore Ravens," Rick Smith, Pashos' agent, told in a telephone interview Wednesday morning. "They're moving on from him like they moved on from Adalius Thomas. I'm not sure where he's going to be, but Tony's going to be somewhere else. There are no hard feelings. It's a business decision."

The Ravens are only $3 million under the league salary cap limit of $109 million.

In a thin free agent market where he and Leonard Davis of the Arizona Cardinals are regarded as two of the top tackles available, Pashos could command a much larger signing bonus than Baltimore could afford under its tight salary structure. It would likely require restructuring contracts or releasing players to put together a large enough offer sheet to make it worthwhile for Pashos to bypass the lucrative offers he's expected to garner on the open market.

"It has nothing to do with their evaluation of Tony," Smith said. "They have made the decision that they've got a solid foundation. And to sign guys back they would have to restructure guys, and that could break up their foundation. It's understandable, and Tony is going be fine."

At 6'6" and 320 pounds, Pashos' game is built around brute strength and solid technique as he's not a gifted natural athlete.

Drafted in the fifth round in 2003 out of the University of Illinois, Pashos became a full-time starter during the 2005 season replacing Orlando Brown. He started every game last season for a line that set a franchise record by allowing just 17 sacks.

Pashos dieted and exercised down from 350 pounds, increasing his stamina, flexibility, and footwork to transform himself from an overweight backup into a fit, effective NFL starter.

"I don't want to leave any stone unturned in making myself as good a player as I can possibly be," Pashos said last summer during training camp. "That's why I work out so much and watch what I eat. It was a major change for me, and I just decided to take this as seriously as possible to compete."

The Chicago Bears appear to be set at tackle for 2007, but John Tait is 32 years old and Fred Miller just turned 34. Pashos will be 27 in August and appears to have much more tread left on his tires. On top of that, GM Jerry Angelo has a history of signing free agent offensive lineman including four starters from this past season - Tait, Miller, and guards Ruben Brown and Roberto Garza.

The Bears have committed $7.2 million to recently-franchised linebacker Lance Briggs, but they would still have approximately $10 million in cap room should Briggs sign that deal.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, MD. John Crist, Editor in Chief of , contributed to this story.

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