J. Lewis could still be in Ravens' plans

OWINGS MILLS -- The next chapter in Jamal Lewis' story with the Baltimore Ravens isn't necessarily going to end with his unceremonious release. The former NFL Offensive Player of the Year could still wind up being in the team's plans. The Ravens have held exploratory discussions with Lewis about restructuring his deal before he's due a $5 million roster bonus on March 3, according to his agent.

That action falls in line with what general manager Ozzie Newsome forecasted last spring when the team signed Lewis to what amounted to a one-year, $6 million arrangement, saying the organization planned to review its relationship with the former Pro Bowl runner after the season.
Lewis, who's also scheduled to earn a $5 million base salary in 2007, is aware that he's not going to receive the hefty roster bonus. Not after rushing for 1,132 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 3.6 yards per carry while dealing with bone spurs in his ankle that required minor surgery after the season.
"Jamal is still interested in playing for the Ravens," said Mitch Frankel, Lewis' agent. "That's going to depend on how our talks go with the Ravens. I don't know what their plans are at this point for Jamal, but we've been talking."
Although the Ravens are currently $3 million under the cap after deciding not to assign a $7.2 million franchise tag to All-Pro linebacker Adalius Thomas, they need more cap space to try to re-sign high-priority free agents like offensive tackle Tony Pashos and linebacker Jarret Johnson as well as leave enough room for their rookie pool.
Lewis' salary-cap figure is $11.6 million and cutting him would open up $8.3 million in cap room.
Parting ways with Lewis would leave the Ravens with only veteran Mike Anderson, who wasn't used much last season in a backup role, on the roster along with P. J. Daniels, a fourth-round draft pick from Georgia Tech who never appeared in a game as a rookie last season.
The free agent class is an iffy proposition since the Green Bay Packers' Ahman Green is age 30 and declining in productivity and durability. Also, slashing Indianapolis Colts runner Dominic Rhodes just had a messy driving under the influence arrest that ended with him urinating inside an Indiana police officer's patrol car.
The draft is regarded as suspect for runners outside of blue-chip prospects like Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson and Cal's Marshawn Lynch, neither of whom is expected to be available for the Ravens with the 29th overall pick of the first round.
So, before the Ravens make any final decision regarding Lewis they are going to perform their due diligence and see if he's an affordable alternative rather than venture into the unknown without him.
"I love the Ravens, I've been here from the start, don't know anything else," Lewis said after the Ravens' playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts. "Whether I'm here or not, I think the Ravens will be all right. But I love this team and wouldn't mind being back here."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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