Ravens in talks with Chester Taylor

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens' running back of the immediate future might be their backup from last season. Since opting not to assign a $6 million franchise tender to former Pro Bowl runner Jamal Lewis, the Ravens have shifted their priorities and negotiating efforts toward unrestricted free agent Chester Taylor.

At 5-foot-11 and 213 pounds, Taylor could represent a versatile, albeit smaller alternative to the 5-11, 240-pound Lewis.

"We have had preliminary discussions with the Ravens and they have expressed interest in keeping Chester," said Ken Sarnoff, Taylor's agent, in an e-mail. "However, numerous other teams have expressed to us that they will have interest in making Chester their feature back. The Ravens will be afforded every opportunity to re-sign Chester and keep him off of the free agent market."

Taylor rushed for 487 yards last season, averaging 4.2 yards per carry with a career-high 41 receptions for 292 yards. The Ravens held onto Taylor last spring by matching the Cleveland Browns' $3 million offer sheet.

In four seasons, Taylor has gained 1,599 yards with a 4.3 average per carry and a career-high 714 yards in 2004. He has caught 105 career passes for 737 yards.

Even if the Ravens sign Taylor, they will likely consider drafting a runner with their 13th overall pick of the first round since USC's LenDale White and Memphis' DeAngelo Williams could be available.

If the Ravens are unable to sign Taylor, they'll have numerous other options, including: Shaun Alexander, Edgerrin James, Ahman Green and, possibly, Lewis if he doesn't command heavy interest on the open market. However, Lewis said he wants a fresh start elsewhere after complaining last season about reduced carries and a lack of communication with coach Brian Billick.

NOTES: The Ravens signed tight end Daniel Wilcox to a three-year contract with an average annual salary of $915,000, according to NFL Players Association figures. Wilcox was going to become a restricted free agent after catching 20 passes last season. "It makes Daniel one of the better paid backup tight ends," said J.R. Rickert, Wilcox's agent. "It's a nice situation where Daniel wanted to be a Baltimore Raven and the Baltimore Ravens wanted him there." … The Ravens will retain restricted free agent Tony Pashos with a first-round tender, locking up their starting right offensive tackle from last season. … The team is expected to hold onto restricted free agent defensive end Jarret Johnson, fullback Ovie Mughelli and nose guard Aubrayo Franklin. ... The Ravens faxed a low tender offer to restricted free agent running back Musa Smith of roughly $700,000. Smith was placed on injured reserve after a setback in his recovery from a broken leg. "Musa's doing great now," said Jack Reale, Smith's agent. "Ozzie Newsome said he thought the kid looked pretty good." … Unrestricted free agent tight end Darnell Dinkins has drawn interest from a handful of teams. "The Ravens said a lot of nice things about him and if he's available they might do something at some point," said Dinkins' agent, Jack Benedict. "We'll field some offers. I know he likes Baltimore, but they've got a couple of good tight ends."

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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