Ravens evaluating Brown and Salaam

<b>Bonus Story. Please consider an Insider Pass and access this stuff daily!</b><br>OWINGS MILLS – In this NFL version of musical chairs, the record is about to stop spinning for two offensive tackles under consideration by the Baltimore Ravens.<br><br> The Ravens have made offers to Orlando Brown, last year's starter, and Ephraim Salaam, a salary-cap casualty formerly employed by the Denver Broncos. Only one player will be signed to start at right tackle, and time is apparently a factor.<br>

"We would very much like to have Orlando back, and we were very impressed with Salaam," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We're basically at a point where whichever athlete wants to step into that opportunity first, that's what we'll do.

"Hopefully, there is a chair for you someplace when the music stops. Sometimes, there isn't."

Meanwhile, Brown, 33, remains a candidate for the Oakland Raiders and, to a lesser extent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Pittsburgh Steelers. And Salaam, 27, is a fallback option for the Chicago Bears, who are waiting to hear whether the Kansas City Chiefs intend to match the offer sheet that tackle John Tait signed.

Brown's representatives are seeking a $4 million signing bonus and said they are seeking more money in base salary in the first few years of a multi-year proposal than is currently being offered by Baltimore. Salaam's agent, Rocky Arcenaux, didn't return telephone calls, but told the Chicago Tribune he was seeking "starting tackle money."

The average salary for an offensive tackle is roughly $6 million per season.

"You're at the point in free agency where unfortunately for the player there is a risk," Billick said. "It's fair to go into the market and you want to do what's best for you and your family. But we're reaching the point in free agency where one affects the other.

"One opportunity may disappear and that may affect what your asking price may be someplace else. It's prudent for all these athletes in free agency to find a place for themselves."

Brown and Salaam represent vastly different styles of blockers.

Brown, who returned last season from a hiatus caused by an eye injury suffered by a penalty-flag accident in 1999, has built a reputation for being both physical and temperamental.

The 6-foot-7, 365-pounder contributed to Pro Bowl running back Jamal Lewis' 2,066-yard rushing season as Lewis averaged 5.5 yards running to the right, according to Stats, Inc.

However, Lewis averaged 10.5 yards running to the left side, where All-Pro Jonathan Ogden lines up, and 10.6 yards a carry up the middle.

Brown also committed 10 penalties, including seven false starts in 13 starts last season and allowed 8 ½ sacks, according to Stats, Inc. He was flagged for two personal fouls in the Ravens' playoff loss to the Titans.

Will he be back?

"In free agency, there's so much money floating around you never know what will happen," offensive line coach Jim Colletto said. "Guys are going to do what's best for them. Whoever's there, I'll coach."

Salaam, who is listed at 6-7 and 295 pounds, had four penalties and one false start and allowed only 4 ½ sacks last season, according to Stats, Inc. Pro Bowl runner Clinton Portis averaged 4.5 yards running toward Salaam's side.

"Salaam is a young guy who's from a system that's similar to what we do," Colletto said. "He's probably got to learn to be a little more physical player, but he's a real athletic guy."

NOTES: The agent for seven-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Warren Sapp declined to comment on his client's interest in the Ravens. Drew Rosenhaus has said he has yet to receive a contract proposal from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is prepared to begin discussions with other clubs. … A published report in Tennessee has mentioned both Anthony Wright and Chris Redman as potential backups for quarterback Steve McNair. The Ravens said they want to bring Wright back as Kyle Boller's backup.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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