Ravens land Ayanbadejo

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens landed two-time Pro Bowl special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo on Thursday, making the energetic linebacker their first free agent acquisition since the signing period began. The former Chicago Bears special-teams captain agreed to terms on a four-year, $4.9 million contract that includes a $1.9 million signing bonus, and will sign the deal Monday.

Ayanbadejo, 31, chose the Ravens over the New York Jets as the Bears declined to match the offer sheet. He'll make $3.3 million in the first two years of the deal.

It wasn't a surprise that the first free agent signed under new coach John Harbaugh specializes in kick coverage.

"There are various ways to improve a team and getting one of the best special-teams players in the league is one way," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Brendon plays like a Raven. He has the toughness, intellect and leadership we look for in our players, and we had to throw coach Harbaugh -- a former special teams coach -- a little bone with our first free agent."

Ayanbadejo ranks second in the league in special-teams tackles over the past two seasons, according to Scouts, Inc. He registered 26 special-teams tackles last season and forced two fumbles.

The Ravens envision Ayanbadejo operating in a role beyond special teams, projecting him as a top backup to inside linebackers Ray Lewis and Bart Scott.

"Brendon elevates our special teams, but he will also help us as a linebacker," Harbaugh said. "His style of play and demeanor is great for the Ravens. Teams will have to scheme to try and handle Brendon."

The Bears rescinded their four-year offer to Ayanbadejo, a popular fan favorite in Chicago, on Monday. Ayanbadejo visited the Jets on Monday and the Ravens on Tuesday.

Ayanbadejo's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, attempted to rekindle negotiations with the Bears, but was unsuccessful at getting them to match the Ravens' proposal.

"I'm happy, but sad to leave Chicago," Ayanbadejo told Chicago reporters.

Ayanbadejo is the younger brother of former Ravens fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo, who won a Super Bowl with Baltimore.

The 6-foot-1, 228-pound Ayanbadejo was allocated to NFL Europe by the Ravens in 2001, but was cut a few days prior to training camp.

A standout at UCLA who was named All-Pac 10 as a senior, Ayanbadejo is known for his reckless-abandon approach to the game.

Ayanbadejo has 124 career special-teams tackles, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries with one interception.

NOTES: Cincinnati Bengals free agent wide receiver Tab Perry, a 6-3, 208-pound kick returner, is expected to visit the Ravens and the Green Bay Packers soon. Perry has visited the Miami Dolphins. He caught 22 passes for 375 yards with three touchdowns in 2004, but a hip injury limited his activity for the past few seasons and Cincinnati decided to not tender him as a restricted free agent.

... The Ravens attended a Pro Day workout for University of Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco and are expected to have a private workout with Flacco next week. ...

Ravens team owner Steve Bisciotti made Forbes' annual billionaires' list again, tying Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder with a net worth of $1.3 billlion. Bisciotti's net worth climbed from $1.1 billion, but he dropped seven spots from last year on the magazine's list.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.


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