Ravens cut ties with Boulware (UPDATED)

OWINGS MILLS – An ultra-rich, unwieldy contract and the advancement of younger talent ultimately spelled the end of linebacker Peter Boulware's eight-year tenure with the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens terminated the four-time Pro Bowl selection's contract Wednesday rather than pay a $6 million base salary, the highest on the team.

Unable to restructure Boulware's contract after general manager Ozzie Newsome's negotiations with agent Roosevelt Barnes, the Ravens opted to take an accelerated salary-cap impact of $7.6 million in dead money this year rather than cut him after June 1, the start of the NFL fiscal calendar.

Boulware, 30, would have counted $7.9 million against this year's salary cap if Baltimore had kept him, and was scheduled to make $6 million in base salary through 2008. The team saved roughly $300,000 against the 2005 salary cap.

If the Ravens had cut Boulware after June 1, the prorated portion of his $13.5 million signing bonus from a 2002 seven-year pact, would have been divided equally over the next two years.

"We hate to see it happen, but that's the name of the game these days," Ravens coach Brian Billick said late Wednesday afternoon at the team's training complex. "The conversations had gone far enough that we pretty much knew where we were at. The negotiation was completed.

"They felt like there was more out there for them in the open market. There is no reason to wait until June 1. We owed Peter that much."

Barnes didn't return a telephone call seeking comment.

Boulware is the franchise's all-time sack leader with 67 ½, but was no longer slated for a full-time role.

Not after missing the entire 2004 season with a knee injury followed by a turf toe that required surgery and landed him on injured reserve. Boulware's last game was late in 2003 against the Cleveland Browns, when he hurt his knee.

"Due to the play of Adalius Thomas and the drafting of Dan Cody, we decided to terminate Peter Boulware," Newsome said in a statement. "Peter has been a major contributor to the success of our organization both on and off the field. As others who have departed this year, whether it has been by termination or free agency, we feel that Peter will continue to be a successful player in this league."

Boulware was forecast to be a situational pass rusher this season, playing 25 to 30 snaps per game.
Thomas, who registered eight sacks last season, is expected to start at strongside linebacker with Tommy Polley starting on the weakside.

Cody, the team's second-round draft pick from Oklahoma, will be a designated pass rusher opposite end Terrell Suggs and will rotate with Thomas.

The Ravens had allotted a certain price for Boulware's specialized, nickel package role, according to Billick, who emphasized that Cody's addition didn't accelerate the exit of their 1997 first-round pick.

"Getting Dan or not getting Dan didn't change Peter's status," Billick said. "What Peter could have done in a nickel situation was going to be the same if we had Dan Cody or not. We have X amount of dollars slotted for that role, and we're not going to exceed that."

Billick said that Boulware's departure doesn't necessarily expedite contract discussions with safety Ed Reed, running back Jamal Lewis and tight end Todd Heap.

Billick emphasized that Boulware is healthy now and predicted that he would make an impact with another team.

Potential destinations for Boulware because of his connections may include: Cincinnati (Marvin Lewis), Jacksonville (Jack Del Rio), San Francisco (Mike Nolan) or Seattle, where younger brother, Michael Boulware, plays strong safety.

Boulware has registered 487 career tackles, was named to Pro Bowls in 1998, 1999, 2002 and 2003, and was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1997.

A popular figure in the locker room and the community, Boulware played through significant pain and was one of the key members of the Ravens' record-setting Super Bowl XXXV defense.

"It's huge," Billick said regarding Boulware's contribution. "The numbers on the field speak for themselves.

"Off the field, what he's done for this community, the class with which he's conducted himself is just what you want in a player."

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

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