Ravens will not franchise J. Lewis

OWINGS MILLS -- Jamal Lewis will not be franchised by the Baltimore Ravens, making the former Pro Bowl running back an unrestricted free agent.

The Ravens' all-time leading rusher boosts an already rich free agent market that features Shaun Alexander, Edgerrin James, DeShaun Foster and Baltimore backup Chester Taylor.

The 2003 NFL Offensive Player of the Year slumped to a career-low 906 yards this season following a four-month federal prison sentence for a cocaine conspiracy plea bargain.

The Ravens would have had to assign a one-year, $6.085 million franchise tender to retain Lewis. Not doing this means they are going to participate in the running back market while also keeping an eye on promising draft picks such as USC's LenDale White and Memphis' DeAngelo Williams with the 13th overall pick.

"We will still consider the possibility of talking to Jamal about a long-term contract," said Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, who drafted Lewis fifth overall out of Tennessee in 2000 when the Ravens won the Super Bowl after signing the 5-foot-11, 240-pounder to a six-year, $35.5 million contract.

Lewis rushed for 2,066 yards in 2003, the second-highest total in league history. However, his production has declined each year since then while dealing with legal turmoil and a right ankle injury that required surgery last winter.

Lewis constantly complained about his lack of carries throughout the season and a lack of communication with Ravens coach Brian Billick.

Meanwhile, there have been no contract negotiations with Taylor's representative.

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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