OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens have brokered a trade for Buffalo Bills running back Willis McGahee, swapping the team's third round and seventh round picks in this year's draft and Baltimore's third-round pick next year for McGahee, an NFL source confirmed to Ravens Insider. McGahee replaces Jamal Lewis, who signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Browns. McGahee is scheduled to take a physical as soon as Friday and then the trade would be finalized.
"This is a runner who can make people miss and has the explosion and speed to take it the distance," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "He also has the power and size to run inside. He's a viable receiver out of the backfield and is a good pass blocker, not something every back can do. He also plays physical and with toughness, which are things we pride ourselves on here."
McGahee has rushed for 3,365 yards and 24 touchdowns since sitting out his rookie season while rehabilitating a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in the Fiesta Bowl. He's coming off a career-low season of 990 yards and six touchdowns.
McGahee, 25, is due a $2.15 million base salary in 2007, the final year of his rookie contract, and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, will seek a lucrative contract extension. The Ravens cut popular left guard Edwin Mulitalo to clear up $2 million in salary-cap space.
McGahee fell out of favor in Buffalo with three paternity suits in two years and his suggestion that the Bills should move to Toronto in an interview with Penthouse magazine, later saying his controversial remarks were taken out of context.
Several NFL agents and executives had predicted that Baltimore will execute a trade for McGahee, a physical, tackle-breaking runner.
"Way to go Ozzie!" Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We're getting a dynamic back who has the potential to diversify our running game. We've studied him, and he brings the same passion and preparation that is common to Miami players, like our Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Getting a player as good as Willis is another example of how Ozzie and his department size up the market and use our resources well."
The Bills were eager to cut ties with McGahee and are scheduled to host Corey Dillon today, a free agent runner who follows Chris Brown and Dominic Rhodes visiting Buffalo. Now, apparently, Dillon isn't going to take the trip, scout.com has learned.
Lewis, 27, repeatedly turned down the Ravens' standing offer of a one-year deal believed to be worth $2 million that Baltimore was unwilling to increase.
Just a week ago, both sides expressed confidence that the former Pro Bowl runner would ultimately rejoin the team after he was cut before a $5 million signing bonus was due.
Ironically, Lewis joins a franchise that he usually ran roughshod over, including an NFL-record 295-yard performance in 2003.
Meanwhile, the Ravens cut ties with popular veteran guard Edwin Mulitalo in a financial maneuver he said team officials told him was to free up salary-cap space.
McGahee has started 40 games in which he has played, carrying the ball 868 times for 3,365 yards and 24 TDs as well as 68 receptions for 503 yards. For his career, McGahee averages 1,122 yards, 3.9 yards per carry and 8 TDs per season (he did not play in 2003 due to a knee injury suffered in college).
McGahee's best season was in 2005 when he was named a Pro Bowl alternate when he rushed for 1,247 yards and 5 TDs and hauled in 28 receptions for 178 yards. He established a new career high with 150 yards on 26 carries, averaging 5.8 yards per carry against the NY Jets last season (9/24).
McGahee also became the fastest Bill to reach the 2,000-yard mark, doing it in 26 games. He has 14 100-yard rushing games to his credit and is tied for 2nd in Buffalo Bills history with 13 rushing TDs in a single season (2004).
"From what I have seen of Willis, he is a heck of a warrior," said middle linebacker Ray Lewis, a Miami football alum. "The way he runs and the passion he plays with is contagious. He plays the game the way it is supposed to be played. I am truly excited to have him as a teammate and look forward to a great season."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.
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