Pryce is right for Ravens

OWINGS MILLS -- In a swift reaction to two major defections from their defensive line at the start of free agency Saturday, the Baltimore Ravens landed versatile former Denver Broncos defensive end Trevor Pryce. The four-time Pro Bowl selection agreed to a five-year contract worth $25 million that includes $10 million in guaranteed money. Pryce's arrival followed nose guard Maake Kemoeatu joining the Carolina Panthers and defensive end Tony Weaver signing with the Houston Texans.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome confirmed the agreement in principle with Pryce through team spokesman Kevin Byrne. The deal will be finalized early this week.
"Trevor's very, very excited to go to a veteran club," agent Peter Schaffer said. "When you have Ray Lewis, Samari Rolle, Chris McAlister, Ed Reed and now a Trevor Pryce, they have a pretty formidable defense."
Carolina general manager Marty Hurney made contact with Kemoeatu at 12:01 a.m. and locked him up with a five-year, $23 million pact, including $8 million in guaranteed money.
Weaver received a five-year contract worth $26.5 million with $12 million in guaranteed money.
"I'm just thrilled to be part of an up-and-coming organization," Weaver told Houston reporters. "They've got a new coaching staff that's a breath of fresh air.
"It was difficult to leave Baltimore because the organization and fans were great. It was time for a change."
Shortly after the Pryce deal, backup running back Chester Taylor accepted a four-year, $14.1 million contract with the Minnesota Vikings that includes $5.6 million in guaranteed money. Taylor is believed to have declined the Ravens' five-year, $17 million offer Friday.
Taylor acknowledged a desire for a fresh start after backing up Jamal Lewis for four seasons.
"Just standing on the sideline was killing me a little bit, but I did what I had to do for them," Taylor said at a news conference in Minnesota. "I'll give this team my best now that I'm here."
Pryce was a financial casualty in Denver, saving the Broncos $8.5 million under the salary cap.
In nine seasons, Pryce registered 60 career sacks to rank sixth in Broncos history. He has a reputation for being interchangeable at end or tackle, blending size (6-foot-5, 286 pounds) and athleticism.
However, his last Pro Bowl season was in 2002 when he made his fourth consecutive appearance. The former first-round draft pick from Clemson has been hampered for the past few years by a nagging back injury.
Pryce repeatedly insists that his back is fine, but his production has been declining since posting a combined total of 25 sacks in 1999 and 2000. After being limited to two games in 2004 because of injury, Pryce had 31 tackles and four sacks last season and was credited with only one tackle in two playoff games.
Replacing Weaver with Pryce draws some parallels to last year when Gary Baxter signed with the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore obtained Samari Rolle, a more established cornerback.
Weaver, 25, was the team's most consistent defensive lineman, but rarely generated much of a pass rush. The former second-round draft pick from Notre Dame battled toe and back injuries, slumping to two sacks in 2005. In four seasons, he had 237 tackles, 14 ½ sacks and six forced fumbles.
Kemoeatu's exit is expected to launch a pursuit of bulky former Oakland Raiders nose guard Ted Washington. The Ravens contacted his agent, Angelo Wright, but there was no consensus as they began haggling over money.
It's believed that Baltimore is more likely to go after Washington or Grady Jackson than former Ravens standout Sam Adams.
Kemoeatu, 27, received a $6 million signing bonus and $2 million in a split-tier bonus with a base salary of $1 million for 2006.
The financial windfall completes a rapid rise for the 6-foot-5, 350-pounder who was surprised to emerge as one of the most sought after free agents. The native of Tonga celebrated with his family on the Hawaiian island of Oahu before catching a red-eye flight to North Carolina.
"Maake was so overwhelmed and it was such an emotional decision that he got physically sick, he literally blew chunks," said Ken Vierra, Kemoeatu's agent. "It was extremely hard for him to leave Baltimore, which really embraced him as a person.
"The Ravens were very aggressive in trying to keep him, but they have their entire team to be concerned with. Carolina is a great fit for Maake."
With Taylor out of the picture, Lewis is mulling over what's believed to be a two-year proposal that includes a signing bonus and incentive clauses. The Ravens maintained dialogue with his representative, Mitch Frankel, but no deal is pending and activity has been slow for Lewis.
Baltimore declined to give Lewis a $6 million franchise tender last month after a career-low 906-yard campaign preceded by ankle surgery and serving four months in a federal prison for a drug crime.
"We'll find out who's serious about Jamal," Frankel said. "Right now, it's pretty quiet."
NOTES: Kerry Collins' agent said that Baltimore has already expressed interest in reuniting the quarterback with offensive coordinator Jim Fassel. "I think that would be an ideal situation for Kerry," David Dunn told the San Francisco Chronicle. … Edgerrin James, a possible option if Lewis isn't retained, visited the Arizona Cardinals. …Safety Will Demps, who won't be back in Baltimore, will visit the Cincinnati Bengals today and the New York Giants on Monday. … Linebacker Bart Scott visited the Cleveland Browns and is expected to visit Arizona or the Seattle Seahawks next. "If the money is even close, then my top choice is to stay with the Ravens," Scott said. "Baltimore is my home until they tell me otherwise even though I'm going to listen to what other teams have to say." ... The Browns are closing in on a deal with punter Dave Zastudil.
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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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