If Lewis isn't assigned the franchise designation by Thursday afternoon's
league-mandated deadline, he will become an unrestricted free agent and may have
played his last football game in Baltimore. There's growing speculation in NFL
circles that Lewis will not be franchised.
"We met on it, but we have not come to a firm decision," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a telephone interview from Indianapolis where he's attending the NFL scouting combine. "If we don't franchise Jamal, we will not use the franchise tag on anyone this year. Whether we franchise Jamal or not, we will get a running back."
Retaining Lewis would require a one-year franchise tender of roughly $6 million. Not franchising Lewis would boost an already potentially rich free agent running back market comprised of Shaun Alexander, Edgerrin James, DeShaun Foster and Baltimore backup Chester Taylor. The Ravens have not engaged in contract talks with Taylor.
Lewis' representative said Monday night that his client is in a waiting mode because the team hasn't apprised him of its intentions.
"Unfortunately, we have to wait and see what the Ravens decide," agent Mitch Frankel said. "I think Jamal feels that if the Ravens want him back and franchise him he would love to come back. If they don't want to franchise him, he's given them six great years and he would be willing to move on."
Lewis' six-year, $35.5 million rookie contract expired after a career-low 902-yard season that followed a tumultuous offseason marked by a four-month federal prison sentence for a cocaine conspiracy case along with ankle surgery.
Forging a new long-term deal with the 2003 NFL Offensive Player of the Year appears to be an unlikely proposition.
"There haven't been any contract negotiations," Frankel said. "They will either franchise him or they won't."
Meanwhile, Newsome said the team has engaged in preliminary contract talks with a few of Baltimore's potential unrestricted free agents, but declined to specify which players.
The agent for linebacker Bart Scott, a versatile 6-foot-2, 240-pounder who registered a career-high 62 tackles and four sacks in relief of injured starter Ray Lewis, said he's been contacted by the Ravens.
"We've actually had a couple of conversations with Ozzie and he made it very clear they would like to retain him after what he showed," Harold Lewis said. "All things being equal, Bart would love to be back with the Ravens."
Another likely priority for Baltimore to attempt to re-sign is massive nose guard Maake Kemoeatu, whom Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage reportedly has his eyes on.
It's unclear which way the Ravens are leaning on defensive end Tony Weaver, a 2002 second-round pick who has 14 ½ sacks in four seasons. Weaver is considered one of the top free agent defensive linemen.
The agent for safety Will Demps, who's recovering well from season-ending knee surgery, said the four-year starter is unlikely to be back.
"They're not going to do anything with him from what I gather, although there hasn't been a definite yes or no," Tony Agnone said. "He's going to have a lot of suitors."
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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