Deal is imminent for Ravens' Lewis, not done yet

Close but no cigar. There are still no restructured deals yet for Baltimore Ravens linebackers Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware even after their agent, Roosevelt Barnes, met twice Wednesday with club executives Ozzie Newsome and Pat Moriarty. However, the Ravens assert privately that a new contract is imminent for Lewis to clear up the necessary salary-cap space to add veteran talent for this revamped football team.

That deal would include an NFL-record signing bonus of $21 to $22 million, which would create significant financial room in excess of $4 million for this fiscal year under the NFL's salary cap of $71.1 million.

The Ravens reportedly are offering a signing bonus of $18 million to Lewis' representative, so millions of dollars still separate the two parties in negotiations.

There is more than the matter of signing bonus to address, though, for Lewis' contract. There are also the complexities of how the deal will be structured in terms of length and incentive clauses to lock up the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year to a long-term deal.

Lewis has two years remaining on his current contract while Boulware has one left. The Ravens haven't ruled out assigning the franchise tag to Boulware after the season concludes.

Barnes remains in Westminster, although at a different hotel than the facility the team uses. The former NFL linebacker said he bought a one-way ticket to Maryland and intends to continue talks with the Ravens until a deal is completed.

The Ravens stressed that Barnes' pessimism in an afternoon interview is mere posturing, that a deal will be completed soon.

"They've got to do a deal they're comfortable with," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We think we can get that done at some point."

Meanwhile, first-round pick Ed Reed, the All-American safety from Miami (Fla.), is still a holdout one week after the team reported for camp. He wants a five-year contract worth $6.25 million with an initial signing bonus of $3.7625 million.

The Ravens are offering $3.6 million and don't appear inclined to budge off of that number. Hence, less than $200,000 separates the Ravens from signing Reed, their starting rookie defensive back.

"The ball is in the Ravens' court," agent Jeff Moorad said. "We would hope they are anxious to complete the deal. "If the head coach is serious about his anxiety about Ed missing practices, I would hope he puts pressure on the appropriate place, which is the negotiator."

Signing players to longer-term deals when lucrative signing bonuses are involved is a prime strategy for lessening the cap impact by spreading out the cap hits. The monies of the signing bonus are pro-rated over the entire course of the contract.

Incidentally, Barnes represents unsigned former Ravens defensive tackle Sam Adams, a prime target for the club if a deal is restructured.

The Ravens would also want to possibly explore signing fullback Sam Gash, wide receiver and Baltimore native Antonio Freeman as well as an offensive lineman such as Ben Coleman, who can play offensive guard and right tackle.

"I'm disappointed that we couldn't get anything done, but that's kind of how negotiations go," Barnes said. "I'm not as optimistic. I thought we were making headway, but it looks like things are starting to fall apart a little bit.

"We'll continue to pound, but if at some point in the next 28 to 48 hours we can't get anything done, I'll just go back home."

Following the team's afternoon practice, Barnes met with Newsome, the club's senior vice president of football operations, and Moriarty, the team's director of football administration.

The Ravens' officials referred to a piece of paper in the players' parking lot that Barnes gave to them, but the agent later said in an interview that it wasn't a proposal, merely some information to help the process along. Naturally, Barnes didn't specify what that information was to the media.

Moriarty said there was silence on the Reed front for the second consecutive day. Moorad said he hasn't spoken with the Ravens since Monday.

As for Boulware, he would likely command a signing bonus of $10 to $12 million, but Lewis is the main focus of talks now, not the outside linebacker who led the AFC with 15 sacks last season.

The Ravens denied they could sign Adams with their current cap situation, something that Barnes actually said was possible. The team said it doesn't have the necessary cap room to match Adams' asking price, believed to be at least $2 to $3 million per year.

"If a team is really looking to do something, they can figure out how to do it," Barnes said. "I don't think Sam being here hinges on whether they get a deal done with Ray and Pete."

Signing Adams the way things currently stand would likely mean cutting veteran players, something Baltimore can't afford to do and remain competitive in the AFC North.

Many teams around the league believe Adams, the 330-pound Pro Bowler, doesn't want to go through a grueling training camp, too.

Barnes said the war of words is over with Billick after a flap that erupted during the voluntary minicamp his clients skipped, much to Billick's chagrin. The two adversaries have yet to meet face to face, although Barnes has been getting a lot of ink and face time on local media outlets.

"It's always good to come visit with Pat and Ozzie," Barnes said. "I still haven't seen coach Billick yet. That's really why I came. That's my boy. I like him."

All jokes aside, if this Lewis deal is completed, the hard-hitting, emotional linebacker should be financially set for life.

"We've talked about the signing bonus," Barnes said. "It's pretty significant. Ray should be able to put some money away if we can agree on some numbers."


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