Wright optimistic about returning to Baltimore

OWINGS MILLS – No deal is imminent, but Baltimore Ravens quarterback Anthony Wright remains optimistic about negotiating a contract before free agency begins.

"I think we can get something done," said Wright, an unrestricted free agent. "I'd like to be back and they want me to come back.

"It's still real early, but I think my agent can get a deal done with the Ravens. I like playing here."

If he returns, Wright would have to compete with Kyle Boller, a first-round draft pick last year, for the starting job. Or Wright could act as Boller's backup.

It's early in the process for the Ravens, who traditionally negotiate the majority of their free-agent deals close to or shortly after the veteran free-agent signing period begins March 3.

The Ravens' top priority is to ink Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister, the team's franchise player and top unrestricted free agent, to a long-term contract extension.

Wright started the AFC North champions' final eight regular-season games and the Ravens' 20-17 playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Working in relief of injured rookie quarterback Kyle Boller, Wright went 5-2 in the regular season after Boller tore his quadriceps against the St. Louis Rams.

Wright passed for 1,199 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions for a quarterback rating of 72.3.

In the Ravens' wild-card loss to Tennessee, Wright completed 20-of-37 passes for 214 yards, a touchdown to tight end Todd Heap and two interceptions for a 57.7 rating.

Boller was 5-4 as a starter, passing for 1,260 yards, seven touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 62.4 rating.

As one of Baltimore's 13 unrestricted free agents, Wright wants a starting job.

However, with a crowded NFL quarterback bazaar that's expected to include Mark Brunell, Kurt Warner and, possibly, Brad Johnson, it's unlikely there will be many starting jobs available. There are potential openings in San Diego, Miami, Tampa Bay and Dallas.

Wright said he'd like to avoid the uncertainty of testing free agency. Joel Segal, Wright's agent, didn't return a telephone call seeking comment.

The Ravens' other unrestricted free agents are kicker Matt Stover, center Mike Flynn, linebacker Bernardo Harris, tight end John Jones, cornerback Tom Knight, defensive end Riddick Parker, quarterback Chris Redman, who's not expected to return, kickoff specialist Wade Richey, wide receiver Marcus Robinson and outside linebacker Adalius Thomas.

Thomas might be the most difficult player for Baltimore to re-sign because the Pro Bowl special-teams selection may command a sizable offer sheet from other teams.

It's believed that Baltimore won't overspend to acquire Thomas, but is willing to re-sign him to a market-value contract for a starting defender who excels on special teams. Thomas will miss the Pro Bowl after undergoing elbow surgery.

The Ravens reportedly lead the NFL with $24 million underneath the league's salary cap. However, Ravens coach Brian Billick has said the team will devote most of its attention toward re-signing its own players rather than attempt to acquire high-profile free agents.

"This will probably be the same way, a lot of the 11th hour, the last days leading up to free agency," Billick said. "We're in great shape that way. There will be a few that lap into free agency to see exactly what that market is, but we hope to be able to be competitive in that situation as well."

NOTE: Fullback Ovie Mughelli had surgery to repair his rotator cuff, a shoulder injury that had bothered him since he attended Wake Forest.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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