Ravens' have opened their vault

OWINGS MILLS -- It has been an expensive month for the Baltimore Ravens, and it will be a long time before they will truly know if they have spent wisely. The Ravens haven't been shy with owner Steve Bisciotti's checkbook since the collective bargaining agreement and revenue sharing plan were approved.

Between running backs Jamal Lewis and Mike Anderson, defensive linemen Trevor Pryce and Justin Bannan and linebacker Bart Scott, Baltimore negotiated contracts potentially worth a total of $80.6 million with combined guaranteed money of $26.5 million, according to NFL Players Association figures.

Plus, Baltimore executed contracts for special-teams ace Gary Stills, nickel back Corey Ivy and tight end Daniel Wilcox along with $1.573 million first-round tenders for restricted free agent offensive tackle Tony Pashos and defensive end Jarret Johnson.

Conversely, nose guard Maake Kemoeatu, defensive end Tony Weaver, running back Chester Taylor and punter Dave Zastudil departed Baltimore for contracts worth a combined total of $71.6 million.

With the major exception of Lewis -- a former NFL Offensive Player of the Year coming off a career-worst season -- most of these players are expected to play under these contracts for their tenure in Baltimore.

Lewis' three-year, $26 million pact averages $8.6 million per season, but really acts as a one-year, $6 million deal with a $5 million signing bonus and a $1 million base salary this year. He's due a $5 million roster bonus next March and a $5 million base salary in 2007, meaning Baltimore will review its relationship with him next year and either restructure his deal or cut him. The financial protection is identically drafted into Lewis' 2008 contract language, too.

Anderson, a former Marine expected to be Lewis' backup, signed a four-year, $8 million contract with a $2 million signing bonus and base salaries of $1 million in 2007, $1.2 million in 2007, $1.8 million in 2008 and $2 million in 2009.

If Pryce returns to his Pro Bowl pass rushing form after slumping to a career-low four sacks last season, then the Ravens will be happy with a $25 million investment that includes $10 million in guaranteed money. Pryce, 30, is due base salaries of $1 million in 2006, $2 million in 2007, $3 million in 2008, $4 million in 2009 and $4.5 million in 2010.

Former Buffalo Bills reserve Justin Bannan profited from his seven starts last season after Sam Adams was benched because of a dispute with the coaching staff. Bannan, who will start at defensive tackle, signed a four-year, $8.1 million contract that includes a $3 million signing bonus and base salaries of $600,000 in 2005, $1 million in 2007, $1.5 million in 2008 and $2 million in 2009.

Meanwhile, Scott, a 25-year old coming off a breakthrough season, signed a three-year, $13.5 million contract that's $500,000 less per season than the Cleveland Browns' five-year, $25 million offer. He received a $6.5 million signing bonus and the eternal gratitude of defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, who was visibly emotional when he welcomed back Scott at a press conference.

With the salary cap boosted to $102 million, Baltimore was able to sign Stills to a three-year, $2.6 million deal and Ivy to a three-year, $2.2 million deal with Wilcox re-signing for three years at an average of $900,000 per season.

Plus, Baltimore retained exclusive-rights free agent guard Brian Rimpf and return specialist B.J. Sams with one-year, $425,000 tenders. Restricted free agent running back Musa Smith, quarterback Brian St. Pierre, kicker Aaron Elling, fullback Ovie Mughelli and nose guard Aubrayo Franklin all received the low tender of $712,000.

The items remaining on the Ravens' spending agenda include a veteran quarterback, a punter and using their rookie pool to sign their draft picks while keeping an eye out for a third wide receiver.

NOTES: The Ravens were awarded a league-high four compensatory draft picks Monday at the NFL owners meetings with additional selections in the fourth round (132nd overall), fifth round (166th) and two in the sixth round (203rd and 208th). A year ago, Baltimore lost six unrestricted free agents: Gary Baxter, Marques Douglas, Bennie Anderson, Ed Hartwell, Casey Rabach and Travis Taylor. ... While quarterback Kerry Collins told a Harrisburg, Pa., newspaper that he thinks he'll probably wind up in Baltimore because of his background with offensive coordinator Jim Fassel, the Miami Dolphins have emerged as another contender. The Ravens are interested in Collins, but are believed to be waiting to see if Tennessee will cut Steve McNair after the draft. ... Punter Jason Baker could re-sign with Carolina, although Baltimore is still talking with his agent. A decision could happen later this week

SALARY CHART
The Baltimore Ravens' top 10 base salaries for 2006, according to NFL Players Association figures:
LB Ray Lewis, $5.5 million
CB Chris McAlister, $5.5 million
OT Jonathan Ogden, $4.7 million
CB Samari Rolle, $3 million
WR Derrick Mason, $3 million
OG Edwin Mulitalo, $2 million
S Ed Reed, $1.98 million
QB Kyle Boller, $ 1.63 million
C Mike Flynn, $1.58 million
DE Jarret Johnson, $1.57 million
OT Tony Pashos, $1.57 million
 

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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