Ravens in holding pattern (UPDATE)

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens' strategy in free agency is essentially unaltered by NFL labor strife although numerous delays have caused the team to hold off on making any firm financial commitments. As the NFL management council, players' union and owners continue to haggle over millions of dollars with the free agent signing period delayed until Thursday, the Ravens have yet to extend contract offers to their batch of unrestricted free agents.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and chief negotiator Pat Moriarty are striking a cautious stance along with most of their colleagues around the league because it was unclear as of late Sunday exactly what set of rules the free agent signing period will be conducted under.

This wait-and-see approach also applies to the quarterback situation as the front office seeks competition for embattled starter Kyle Boller. The most likely candidate for the job is former Oakland Raiders starter Kerry Collins who was cut Sunday night to create $9.2 million worth of salary cap space.

"Kyle is working hard and preparing himself to compete to be the starter again," said Mike Sullivan, Boller's agent. "Kyle can't concern himself with who the Ravens are planning to bring in. That's not going to change his focus and he's not going to worry about things that are beyond his control."

Collins quarterbacked the New York Giants to a Super Bowl loss to Baltimore while being coached by Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Fassel. Fassel is expected to be a major advocate for a player whose career he rescusitated after a string of off-field problems and clashes with teammates during failed stints with the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints.

Collins, 33, had a 7-21 record in two seasons in Oakland. He went 4-12 in his final season, an inconsistent campaign where he passed for 3,759 yards and 20 touchdowns -- his most since 2002 when he was in New York.

The former Penn State star was sacked 39 times and threw 12 interceptions. The Raiders scored only 51 points with six touchdowns in five consecutive losses to end the season.

The Ravens are likely to also investigate the possibility of other second-tier passers such as the Miami Dolphins' Gus Frerotte, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Brian Griese, the Washington Redskins' Patrick Ramsey as well as keeping an eye on whether Minnesota Vikings opt to cut Daunte Culpepper.

Culpepper is due a $6 million roster bonus and has clashed with new Vikings coach Brad Childress, spurring on-again, off-again trade rumors with Miami and Baltimore.

It's unlikely that the Ravens will attempt a pursuit of San Diego Chargers starter Drew Brees or Cincinnati Bengals backup Jon Kitna. Kitna appears headed to the New York Jets, and the Ravens have yet to demonstrate any interest toward him.

The Ravens have spent the majority of this buildup time to free agency trying to keep nose guard Maake Kemoeatu, a 6-foot-5, 350-pound run-stopper who's also expected to draw heavy interest from the Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals.

His agent, Ken Vierra, described the Ravens' approach as aggressive, saying they have made "significant overtures." Since Kemoeatu is curious to find out how much he's worth on the open market, no immediate deal is likely with Baltimore.

Meanwhile, the Ravens have yet to discuss money with the agents for running back Chester Taylor and linebacker Bart Scott.

The Ravens want to see if they're going to either be $14.4 million underneath the current $94.5 million salary cap limit, or as much as $24 million to $28 million under a projected cap with a collective bargaining agreement extension.

If the Ravens wind up that far underneath the salary cap, they could conceivably pursue high-end free agents and try to retain more of their own unrestricted free agents, a group that includes defensive end Tony Weaver and punter Dave Zastudil, a Cleveland native.

Weaver said he doesn't expect to be back. Scott expects to have several options, including Baltimore. If the Ravens can't or don't sign Scott, Tommy Polley represents their fallback option at linebacker.

The Ravens are likely to face stiff competition to retain players from Browns general manager Phil Savage, the former Baltimore director of personnel who has said he's eager to open up owner Randy Lerner's financial coffers and start spending $21 million of cap room.

Besides a probable investment in the offensive line through the draft, the Ravens have already signaled that their core of blockers is likely to return pretty much intact. Quarterback, running back, defensive line and safety are the Ravens' top areas of need in free agency.

The Ravens are looking for a safety to play next to former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Ed Reed since they have already informed Will Demps' representative that he won't be back.

 

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

If you are reading this article via a news portal, you can find the original on RavensInsider.Com
URL:http://www.ravensinsider.com


Ravens Insider Top Stories