Ravens Should Let Boulware Walk

By all accounts, the Ravens want to reach a long-term extension with their start linebacker, Peter Boulware. However, the feeling is not necessarily mutual. According to the Baltimore Sun, agents Roosevelt Barnes and Eugene Parker have made a counter proposal to the Ravens that would still allow Peter Boulware to become a free-agent next year.

The offer is to take Boulware's base salary of $4.5 million and convert $4 million of the amount into bonus pay. That would allow the Ravens to save $3 million in cap space, and allow Boulware to gain the freedom he desires. However, that type of deal would also create an accelerated hit of $3 million against next year's cap, if the contract is not restructured after this season.

The Ravens would rather hammer out an extension that would keep Boulware a Raven for life, without converting the base pay into bonus money. If negotiations continue to move at a snail's pace, the Ravens could resort to placing the franchise tag on Boulware following this season. The tag basically prohibits his right to become an unrestricted free-agent next year. Instead, Boulware would be paid a guaranteed one-year contract worth $5 million. Although Boulware has publicly stated that he doesn't have a problem accepting this designation, he does.

At this point, the Ravens should let Boulware play out the remainder of his contract and test the free-agent waters next year. It's hard to fathom why any team would be willing to match his high demands in the 2003 offseason. Boulware's asking price could presumably drop some, making it easier for the Ravens to re-sign him to a more reasonably structured contract. The Ravens would be taking a calculated risk by letting the All-Pro linebacker go, but it would be a chance worth taking at this rate.

Even if he were to sign with some other team, the Ravens would have more than enough cap space to sign a linebacker to replace him. For close to half of the amount of money the Ravens are about to pay Boulware, they could sign Rosevelt Colvin, an emerging strongside linebacker who will become a free-agent next year. He may not be as good a player as Boulware, but he's close, and he'll be cheaper too.

At some point, the Ravens will have to pay Boulware a bonus that exceeds $10 million, and a deal that totals $40 million at the least. With the extension of Ray Lewis' contract also looming large, the Ravens could be facing the possibility of committing an average of $15 million in cap space to two players.

Lewis may be worth the money because there are few players in the league that impact a football game as much as he does, but Boulware is not in his class.

In the end, looking out for the team's best interest is what counts. Signing Boulware to a crippling long-term deal may not be the right move to make. Right now Boulware doesn't seem to understand to concept of "team", so the Ravens should just move on without him.


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