Ravens looking at Baker

OWINGS MILLS -- Punter Jason Baker's asking price was apparently too high for the St. Louis Rams, but the free agent could fit into the Baltimore Ravens' plans.

Since the Rams decided to sign veteran Matt Turk to a one-year, $850,000 contract shortly after meeting with Baker, the NFC's leading punter from last season remains available. His agent said Friday that he hopes to negotiate a deal with Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome at the NFL owners' meetings in Orlando, Fla., that begin Sunday and conclude Thursday.

"Baltimore has shown a lot of interest throughout the process and I'm looking forward to talking with Ozzie down here," said Frank Murtha, Baker's agent, in a telephone interview from Orlando. "We'll see how the Ravens want to proceed, but it looks like a strong possibility based on my conversations with them."

Contrary to a published report, Murtha said that the Ravens have not scheduled a visit with Baker, who played for new Baltimore special teams coordinator Frank Gansz in 2003 for the Kansas City Chiefs.

"We don't have any visits scheduled and there's really no reason for Jason to visit Baltimore since he already knows Frank, who's out on the road looking at college punters and kickers," Murtha said.

The Ravens attempted to retain Dave Zastudil, but the Cleveland native opted to sign a five-year, $8 million contract with the Browns that included a $1.6 million signing bonus along with a $500,000 roster bonus in 2007. The Ravens are believed to have been willing to come close to those figures.

Baker averaged a career-high 43.3 yards per punt last season for the Carolina Panthers with a 38.9 net average. If he signs with Baltimore, it could remove the need to hold an extra roster spot for a kickoff specialist. The former Iowa punter has a career 62.0 kickoff average with an average return of 23.2 yards.
Baker said that he was surprised that the Rams didn't sign him and denied that his contract demands were too high.

"There was never even an offer presented," Baker told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Literally, there was no negotiation. I went over there with the intent of leaving a Ram, but I was never even given an opportunity to say 'yes' or 'no' to anything. All I got was a steak and had a doctor poke me a couple times."

NOTE: Offensive tackle Jon Runyan chose to rejoin the Philadelphia Eagles with a three-year contract, turning down the New York Jets. A New Jersey newspaper claimed that the Ravens were interested, but Runyan's agent dismissed that report as speculation.

"Baltimore has never made a pitch for Jon," Ben Dogra, Runyan's agent, wrote in an e-mail.

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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