Baxter hoping he's next in line

OWINGS MILLS - Now that the Baltimore Ravens have created salary cap breathing room by rewarding offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden with a seven-year contract worth more than $50 million, cornerback Gary Baxter is hoping he'll be blessed next.

Baxter is slated to become an unrestricted free agent after the season, and general manager Ozzie Newsome has said that signing the fourth-year pro to a new deal is a major priority. Baxter said his agent, David Dunn, called him Thursday shortly after Ogden's contract became public.

"It's exciting to see that happen, but we'll let things take its course," Baxter said Friday, one day after Ogden signed a contract that includes $20 million in guaranteed money split between this year and 2005. "I'm happy that steps are being made, but I can't worry about it. When it happens, it happens. Hopefully, I can become a Raven for life."

Besides Baxter, the Ravens have designs on signing running back Jamal Lewis and tight end Todd Heap, whose contracts expire after next season. Linebacker Ray Lewis is signed through 2008, but is likely to want a new deal now that Ogden has been compensated so generously by owner Steve Bisciotti.

Three weeks ago, the team signed cornerback Chris McAlister to a seven-year, $55 million deal that includes $17.5 million in bonus money over the first two years of his contract.

Plus, the team has decisions to make on the following starters who become unrestricted free agents after this season: linebacker Ed Hartwell, wide receiver Travis Taylor, offensive guard Bennie Anderson, center Casey Rabach and defensive end Marques Douglas. Several players' agents have said that they expect to hear from Newsome regarding new deals now that the team has addressed Ogden.

When the team signed Ogden, 30, to a new deal, it was with the intention that he can retire as a Raven.

"It's the way the world should be," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We don't go in for a lot of high-priced free agents because we keep our own."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times and

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