Mason signs, Ravens' search for Guard, Receiver

OWINGS MILLS -- As wide receiver Derrick Mason flew into Baltimore, passed his physical and signed his $20 million contract, the Ravens' proposed changing of the guard remained grounded. <br><br> The market for the elite offensive guard candidates became quite expensive Thursday on the second day of free agency.

Former Green Bay Packers starters Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle signed with the Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers, respectively, enriching both blockers. Rivera signed a five-year, $20 million deal with $9 million in bonus money with Wahle receiving guaranteed money of nearly $10 million.

Rivera had been scheduled to visit Baltimore, and Wahle was on the Ravens' list, too.

It's unlikely that Baltimore will want to venture into such high-rent territory to replace right guard Bennie Anderson, a free agent not expected to return.

The Ravens could now turn their attention toward second-tier options such as Indianapolis' Rick DeMulling, Philadelphia's Jermane Mayberry, Atlanta's Roberto Garza, Tampa Bay's Cosey Coleman and Green Bay's Grey Ruegamer.

"There are some guards out there that we like," Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "If we can bring in a guard, there are three or four that played center in this league so that allows us to have someone that can go in and play right away if something happens to Mike Flynn."

Negotiations continued with the agent for cornerback Gary Baxter, the Ravens' top unrestricted free agent, and Baltimore could be closing in on a deal. Baxter's agent, David Dunn, didn't return telephone calls.

Baxter may command as much as $12 to $14 million in guaranteed money with Ken Lucas reportedly getting a six-year, $36 million with a signing bonus of $13 million from the Panthers.

The Ravens are still searching for another veteran wide receiver to pair with Mason, who will be introduced Friday morning at a press conference.

After refusing to accept a pay cut, receiver Ike Hilliard is expected to be cut soon by the New York Giants and Baltimore could be a natural destination with former Giants coach Jim Fassel now coordinating the Ravens' offense.

"If another veteran receiver becomes available, we won't just pass on him," Newsome said. "Especially if it's someone we think can come in and help us, and if he comes in at our price."

Linebacker Ed Hartwell met Thursday with Kansas City Chiefs officials. No deal is imminent, and his next trip could be to the Arizona Cardinals.

"We're talking some numbers with the Chiefs and the visit is going well," said Harold Lewis, Hartwell's agent. "There's still a chance it could happen with Kansas City. If not, Eddie has four teams pushing us to take more visits."

Running back Chester Taylor, who rushed for 714 yards behind Jamal Lewis last season, visited the Cleveland Browns.

A restricted free agent who received the low tender of $656,000, Taylor is allowed to sign an offer sheet with any team. However, the Ravens have the right of first refusal and would receive a sixth-round draft pick as compensation if they didn't match the offer.

Wide receiver Travis Taylor, the injury-plagued former first-round draft pick, met with Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Tice.

Defensive end Marques Douglas has drawn interest from the Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers and the Philadelphia Eagles.

NOTES: Newsome said he's inclined to trade back from the 22nd overall selection of the first round to acquire extra selections rather than move up. ... The Ravens reportedly had an interest in defensive tackle Seth Payne, who re-signed with the Texans, and defensive end Kevin Carter, but Carter would prefer to play down south, possibly in Miami ... The Ravens are holding cheerleader tryouts Saturday and Sunday at the Downtown Athletic Club. Registration begins at 8 a.m. Saturday, and tryouts are at noon.

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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