Rabach joins Redskins, Baxter negotiating

OWINGS MILLS -- As center Casey Rabach cruised down the highway, the Baltimore Ravens were trying to keep cornerback Gary Baxter in the players' parking lot.<br><br> The Ravens remained in serious negotiations with Baxter, their top priority among their dozen unrestricted free agents, Wednesday night.

"We are in discussions with Gary and hopefully things can work out," Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Right now, he's exposed to 31 other teams so we don't know."

Baxter, who has started a team-high 46 consecutive games, expressed optimism that a deal could be completed as soon as Wednesday.

"We're trying to get something done right now," Baxter said.

Meanwhile, Rabach joined the Washington Redskins, agreeing to a five-year, $13.75 million contract that included a $2.5 million signing bonus and a $2 million roster bonus.

The future was essentially cast for Rabach a year ago when Baltimore signed center Mike Flynn to an $11.25 million contract. Rabach performed so adeptly that Flynn didn't regain his job after recovering from a broken collarbone, but Baltimore wasn't going to pay two centers.

"Basically, we made a commitment with Mike Flynn a year ago," Newsome said.
Now, the Ravens will aggressively explore signing an offensive guard with Bennie Anderson expected to sign elsewhere.

Former Green Bay offensive lineman Mike Wahle is one of the top targets along with Indianapolis' Rick DeMulling, Chicago's Aaron Taylor and versatile Packers center Grey Ruegamer.

"Basically, we are in the guard market," Newsome said. "We feel very good about Flynn coming back and being healthy, but we're out there pursuing guards."

Ravens coach Brian Billick said the team is more likely to look at tackles in the draft than free agents to compete with right tackle Orlando Brown, who recently underwent minor knee surgery.

"We obviously feel good about the doctors feeling strong about Zeus' ability to come back and play, so we'll continue to augment that," Billick said.
Linebacker Ed Hartwell had dinner Wednesday with Kansas City Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil, who is also considering Pro Bowl linebacker Jeremiah Trotter.

"Ed feels good about the Chiefs, and we'll see where it's at in the morning," said Harold Lewis, Hartwell's agent.

Defensive end Marques Douglas, one of the Ravens' six unrestricted free agent starters, is expected to draw interest from Philadelphia, Miami, San Diego and Pittsburgh.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: The Ravens retained all of their nine restricted free agents, assigning the middle tender of $1.43 million to starting strong safety Will Demps and reserve defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu. That one-year deal ensures that Baltimore would receive a first-round draft pick if they declined to match an offer sheet.

Tight ends Darnell Dinkins and Terry Jones, receiver Randy Hymes, linebacker Bart Scott, running back Chester Taylor, safety Chad Williams and punter Dave Zastudil received the low tender of $656,000. If the Ravens decided not to match an offer, they would get a draft pick in the round the player was drafted in.

QUICK HITS: Billick reiterated that the Ravens are leaning toward switching back to the 4-3 defense. Linebacker Terrell Suggs would likely move back to defensive end. ... Newsome said he has spoken with running back Jamal Lewis, who is serving four months in a Florida prison for a drug charge. Trainer Bill Tessendorf has also been in contact with Lewis, who is recovering from ankle surgery. "So far, things are progressing well," Newsome said. ... Newsome acknowledged that former Ravens cornerback Duane Starks is on the trading block, but didn't elaborate. Starks has been linked to New England.

As well as a being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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