Newsome: Ravens not focused only on J. Lewis

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens have expanded their focus beyond their ongoing negotiations with running back Jamal Lewis and have been holding discussions with other free agent runners, according to general manager Ozzie Newsome. While the Ravens could still wind up signing Lewis, they are looking at other options. Potential candidates include Corey Dillon, Dominic Rhodes and Chris Brown.

"We are holding conversations with the agents for other running backs," Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "We are still talking with Jamal."
The agent for Dillon has repeatedly mentioned Baltimore as one of two teams he's interested in along with the Philadelphia Eagles. The possibility of joining the New York Jets evaporated when the Chicago Bears traded Thomas Jones to the Jets. Dillon, 32, was cut Saturday by the New England Patriots, saving the team $2 million in salary-cap room.
The agent for former Tennessee Titans starter Chris Brown expressed optimism that the Ravens could be a good fit for Brown, who was replacing in the starting lineup by Travis Henry last season.
Brown, who has an upright running style at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, has rushed for 2,295 career yards and 11 touchdowns in four seasons.
"We're taking a strong look at Baltimore, and I think the chemistry with Steve McNair is something Baltimore is going to value," said Wynn Silberman, Brown's agent, who spoke with team officials Monday afternoon. "It would be an easy transition. Chris is a player. He unfortunately received the short end of the stick last year and is looking for a place where he can show what he's capable of."
Brown is also garnering interest from the Green Bay Packers, Eagles and Titans now that Henry is off the market.
The price for a starting running back is getting expensive as the Denver Broncos signed Henry to a deal with $12 million in guaranteed money while Ahman Green agreed to terms with the Houston Texans for $6.5 million in guaranteed money. Also, LaMont Jordan is staying with the Oakland Raiders after reducing his roster bonus Monday.
The Ravens are unlikely to get involved in a potential trade for disgruntled Buffalo Bills running back Willis McGahee. McGahee is entering the final year of his contract, and agent Drew Rosenhaus will likely be seeking a long-term, lucrative contract.
Meanwhile, Newsome confirmed that the Ravens are done addressing the outside linebacker position after quickly signing Jarret Johnson to replace All-Pro Adalius Thomas after he joined the New England Patriots.
Because of the decision to sign Johnson, the Ravens will not be in the hunt for former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Joey Porter. With the Ravens' tight salary-cap situation, he would have likely been too expensive as he's expected to seek an annual salary in excess of $5 million.
"When AD was doing all of those versatile things and playing all of those positions, Jarret was right there doing many of those same things," Newsome said. "We think Jarret can be an extremely productive player for us at ‘Sam' linebacker."
Johnson's contract was initially reported as a three-year, $13 million deal, but the team announced Monday that it's a six-year pact. Because the contract hasn't been processed yet, the yearly salary breakdown wasn't immediately available according to NFL Players Association officials.
The Ravens are not inclined toward pursuing free agent offensive tackles after right tackle Tony Pashos signed a five-year, $24 million contract with the Jacksonvillle Jaguars that included a $9 million signing bonus.
The Ravens would likely install left tackle Adam Terry, a 6-foot-8, 330-pound former second-round draft pick, as their right tackle. Terry performed well in pass protection against Porter and Buffalo Bills defensive end Aaron Schobel late in the season, but needs to improve his strength and run blocking.
"If we had to play a regular season game today, Adam Terry would be our starting right tackle," Newsome said.
The Ravens are also likely to look at the draft to address the tackle position because All-Pro left tackle Jonathan Ogden is pondering retirement.
While team officials and teammates are hopeful that Ogden will return, most believe it will only be for one more season. The Ravens interviewed Penn State offensive tackle Levi Brown at the NFL scouting combine.
With Ovie Mughelli joining the Atlanta Falcons as the richest fullback in league history with a six-year, $18 million contract that included a $5 million signing bonus, the Ravens could look at former Detroit Lions starter Cory Schlesinger to fill the void or draft a fullback.
Schlesinger, 34, is a 12-year veteran with a bruising reputation.
Nicknamed "Sledgehammer," Schlesinger once broke 23 face masks in one season according to the Lions' equipment manager.
"We will address fullback either during free agency or during the draft," Newsome said.
Since free agency began Friday, the Ravens lost four players as Pashos, Mughelli, Thomas and backup nose guard Aubrayo Franklin took advantage of the bullish market. To sign the four homegrown Baltimore free agents, teams spent a total of $37 million in guaranteed money on contracts with a total maximum worth of $85.5 million.
The development wasn't a surprise to Newsome, who forecast during the scouting combine how rich the bidding would likely become with the salary cap increasing to $109 million. That's a 27.5 percent increase from the $85.5 million limit from two years ago.
"The numbers that were being talked about during the combine pretty much were the numbers people got during the first days of free agency," Newsome said. "It was what we expected."
NOTE: Return specialist B.J. Sams is scheduled to go to trial Tuesday morning in Towson District Court for his driving under the influence arrest last fall, his second since joining the team. He received a probation before judgment outcome in his first DUI trial.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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