Mulitalo out: Could McGahee be in?

OWINGS MILLS -- Is Jamal Lewis going to sign with the Cleveland Browns? Will the Baltimore Ravens trade for Buffalo Bills runner Willis McGahee? What does offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo's release mean? And what other running backs' movement around the league could do to affect a fluid running back situation, a vacancy created by cutting Lewis last week. Please keep reading for further details.

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens cut ties with popular veteran guard Edwin Mulitalo on Wednesday, a salary-cap maneuver that represents a potential precursor to either trading for Buffalo Bills running back Willis McGahee or re-signing Jamal Lewis.
As Lewis arrived in Cleveland on Wednesday for a visit with the Browns in yet another sign that his seven-year tenure in Baltimore might be coming to an end, the Ravens' exploration of a trade for McGahee continues to advance.
The Ravens aren't believed to have a specific deadline for Lewis to accept their standing, one-year contract offer that his agent, Mitch Frankel, has said he won't accept. However, it's unlikely that the Ravens would allow Lewis to visit several teams and hold an offer for him while he makes up his mind.
With the Bills intent on trading McGahee and Lewis apparently serious about walking away from the Ravens' offer, the entire fluid situation appears to be heading to a conclusion within the next few days.
It's believed that the Bills would be willing to trade McGahee for either a second-round or a third-round draft pick.
The Bills are highly motivated to broker a trade for McGahee, and have actively been seeking his replacement.
Also, Corey Dillon, another free agent runner the Ravens have held preliminary discussions with, is scheduled to visit the Bills today. He follows Indianapolis Colts free agent Dominic Rhodes, who will visit the Tennessee Titans today.
Lewis, whom Baltimore cut last week rather than pay him a $5 million roster bonus, could be a fit in Cleveland with his background with general manager Phil Savage, the former Ravens director of player personnel. Savage recommended that Baltimore draft the future NFL Offensive Player of the Year fifth overall out of the University of Tennessee in 2000.
Also, incumbent Browns starter Reuben Droughns could be cut next week when he's due a $1.7 million roster bonus.
The Green Bay Packers have been mentioned as another possible destination for Lewis.
As the Ravens worked on addressing their starting running back vacancy, they delivered a painful goodbye to Mulitalo, a fixture at left guard next to All-Pro tackle Jonathan Ogden for the past eight seasons.
Mulitalo, 32, was limited to a career-low four games last season due to a torn triceps tendon that required surgery and forced him onto injured reserve.
Mulitalo confirmed that his departure was linked directly to the Ravens wanting to clear salary-cap room.
By releasing Mulitalo, the Ravens are likely exercising a clause in the NFL collective bargaining agreement that allows them to release a player before June 1 while having their salary cap reflect him as a June 1 cut.
If that's the case, Mulitalo's cap impact would be spread over two seasons with $2 million saved for this season and $1.7 million counted against the 2008 salary cap as the remaining portion of his pro-rated, $5.4 million signing bonus. If that's not the case, they only freed up $299,000.
Mulitalo was due a $2 million base salary for 2007, and had a salary-cap figure of $2.85 million.
"I was told the Ravens were going with young guys," said Mulitalo, a 6-foot-3, 350-pounder whom Baltimore drafted in the fourth round in 1999. "I would have liked to come back and compete for my job, but, having said that, it was a great ride.
"Baltimore will always be home. It hurts, but this is a business. Again, I'm grateful."
The Ravens already have Mulitalo's replacement with former fourth-round draft pick Jason Brown, who performed capably in 12 starts last season after Mulitalo tore his triceps muscle in his right arm against the San Diego Chargers on Oct. 1.
"When you release a player like Edwin, it gives you pause," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "This is the cold side of the business. All he did was everything we asked him to do and more."
Mulitalo was one of the most active players in the community, especially with his Big Ed's Band Foundation that contributed musical instruments to Baltimore area schools.
"He was always an example to his teammates as to how a professional should conduct himself," Billick said. "My hope is that he stays in this area for the long haul. We're a better community because of him."
Mulitalo was one of the last remaining players from the team's Super Bowl XXXV championship squad. He opened gaping holes for Lewis in his 2,066-yard campaign in 2003.
"Brian said something a few years ago about releasing players: ‘When it doesn't hurt, you get out of this business,'" Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Well, it hurts to let a good person like Ed go. He helped us win the Super Bowl and many other games in the last 8 years. He's a good football player and a better person."
Despite the adversity of the past two years, including struggling with gout in his knee in 2005 and dealing with his father's death before that season, Mulitalo said he plans to keep playing football.
"My phone has already been ringing," Mulitalo said. "I still want to play the game."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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