Ravens re-sign Mike Flynn

<b>Updated</b>OWINGS MILLS – For virtually every down for the last three years, Mike Flynn has lined up the laces of the football, hiked it between his legs and fired off the line of scrimmage.<br> <br> He is the Baltimore Ravens' center.<br> <br> Flynn will remain so, too, after agreeing to a five-year contract Monday that will pay him a total of $11.25 million and includes a $4 million signing bonus.<br> <br>

The deal comes two days before Flynn would have become an unrestricted free agent and is similar to the contract inked last year by Pro Bowl alternate guard Edwin Mulitalo. The Ravens had negotiated this contract for months with Ralph Cindrich, Flynn's agent.

A former undrafted player who once starred for the obscure Maine Black Bears before latching on with the Ravens, Flynn hopes to finish his career in Baltimore.

"Believe it or not, I have been here for seven years," said Flynn, who was signed off the Jacksonville Jaguars' practice squad in 1997. "I plan on finishing my career here. It's kind of all I ever knew.

"It's a familiarity. When I was a rookie, I was just happy to make the team. It has been a long way."

Flynn, 29, contributed heavily to NFL offensive player of the year Jamal Lewis gaining the second-most rushing yards in league history last season.

Lewis rushed for 2,066 yards, 40 shy of Hall of Fame runner Eric Dickerson's 2,105 single-season mark, and 14 touchdowns. He also set the single-game mark for rushing yards with 295 last September against the Cleveland Browns.

On many of Lewis' long runs, Flynn would seal off an interior defensive lineman before clearing out a linebacker or a safety downfield.

"We're excited about Mike and felt all along that Mike would stay with us," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "He's a pivotal part of what we do.

"I think Mike has established himself as a legitimate, top-end center. He's the leader of that group."

Baltimore won the AFC North title last season and finished with the top-ranked running game and the last-ranked passing game.

The Ravens set a team record for points scored and gained 2,669 rushing yards.

"Last year, what we did was pretty impressive," Flynn said. "I won't say that we will rush for another 2,000 yards, but I definitely think that we can be a better line."

By bringing back Flynn, the Ravens have four of their five starting offensive linemen under contract.

Massive right tackle Orlando Brown is set to become an unrestricted free agent, although the team has been negotiating to retain him and leave last year's set of blockers intact.

"You don't have that much in the NFL nowadays with all the free agency," offensive line coach Jim Colletto said. "In the old days, the line stayed together for eight, nine, 10 years. To have that group back together again would be good."

As for Brown, Colletto said he's made it clear that the 6-foot-7, 365-pounder is welcome even after a bout with penalties and personal fouls late in the season.

"All he's got to do is sign on the dotted line," Colletto said. "I'd like to have him back and I told him that."

For Flynn, who entered the league an unheralded player with a commensurate salary, the contract signals a secure future.

To Billick, Flynn is an example of perseverance as a player who bounced between the waiver wire as a rookie and the Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers' practice squads.

"Mike's a great story," Billick said. "Particularly on the offensive line, he's not an untypical story.

"The maturity of linemen takes a while. Mike kept battling to establish himself."

Reach staff writer Aaron Wilson at 410-751-5919 or sports@lcniofmd.com. 

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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