Ravens match offer to Taylor, host Colts Sept 11

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens matched the one-year, $3 million offer sheet that restricted free agent running Chester Taylor signed last week with the Cleveland Browns.

The Ravens had until Wednesday to match the offer on Pro Bowl runner Jamal Lewis' primary backup, but opted to act Monday. The deal includes a $2 million base salary, a $1 million signing bonus and a pair of $100,000 incentive clauses.

"This shows the continued commitment of Steve Bisciotti to win and the flexibility of our cap that we can retain a player like Chester," Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Over the last three years, Chester has been productive both when spelling Jamal Lewis and when he has started for him. Keeping Chester makes us a stronger and deeper team."

Taylor, who was slated to compete with Lee Suggs for the Browns' starting tailback job, would receive $100,000 if he makes the Pro Bowl and $100,000 if he rushes for 1,000 yards. It's unlikely that those incentives will be triggered in 2005 because of Lewis' presence. In four starts, Taylor rushed for 714 yards and two touchdowns last season while catching 30 passes. "The Ravens are a great organization and Chester Taylor is proud to be a Baltimore Raven," said Ken Sarnoff, Taylor's agent. "He looks forward to helping the Ravens compete for a Super Bowl ring in 2005."

Taylor's contract will count approximately $3 million against the Ravens' 2005 salary cap. He is still slated to be an unrestricted free agent in 2006, when he would be free to sign with any franchise.

Taylor was drafted in the sixth round out of Toledo in 2002. If the Ravens hadn't opted to match the offer, they would have received the Browns' sixth-round draft pick as compensation.

Meanwhile, the NFL announced that the Ravens will open the season Sept. 11 on national television against the Indianapolis Colts in a Sunday night ESPN game.

"What an opportunity for the team and our fans," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Our fans will really enjoy this. I can already hear their enthusiasm."

Aaron Wilson is the chief writer for RavensInsider.Com He is also the Ravens' reporter for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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