Ravens in good shape for free agency

OWINGS MILLS -- Now, the Baltimore Ravens can break out owner Steve Bisciotti's checkbook. Upon the approval of a new collective bargaining agreement by NFL owners' 30-2 vote, the league has achieved labor peace and a salary cap of $102 million for the 2006 fiscal calendar. Free agency is supposed to begin Friday at 12:01 a.m, although it's likely to be delayed another day.

And the $7.5 million boost from a cap of $94.5 million should leave Baltimore about $22.4 million underneath the cap with substantial freedom to attempt to sign several of its own unrestricted free agents, including: nose guard Maake Kemoeatu, linebacker Bart Scott, running back Chester Taylor, punter Dave Zastudil and, possibly, defensive end Tony Weaver.

It also leaves the Ravens in a strong position to obtain a veteran quarterback, including candidates like Kerry Collins and Daunte Culpepper if they're available, and in position to sign Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed to a long-term deal as he enters the final year of his contract. Plus, there should be plenty of money left over for their rookie pool.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has spent the delay of the free agent signing period continuing preliminary dialogues with the team's free agents and studying film of college prospects.

The Ravens voted in favor of the agreement with only Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson and Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown dissenting against the modified players' union proposal. In a news conference in Texas, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue credited Ravens team president Dick Cass and the Pittsburgh Steelers for collaborating to revise a plan on setting aside money for revenue sharing to assist low-revenue franchises.

NOTE: Drew Rosenhaus, the typically outspoken agent for running back Edgerrin James, declined to comment on whether the Ravens are a potential destination for the former Indianapolis Colts' star.

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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