R. Lewis expected to test free agency

OWINGS MILLS -- Although the Baltimore Ravens remain in contract talks with All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis, it's looking more and more likely that the two-time NFL Defensive Player will take a look around the NFL marketplace when free agency begins early Friday morning.

It's still unclear if a deal will be worked out today as Lewis is on the verge of becoming an unrestricted free agent for the first time after 13 years in Baltimore.

"We're still in negotiations and making some progress," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said Wednesday when asked about Lewis. "All I can do is continue to negotiate until free agency starts. At that point, the dialogue will continue and the agent and I will continue to talk."

Lewis, who turns 34 in May and was selected to his 10th Pro Bowl after leading the Ravens in tackles last season, has lobbied for other NFL teams to make a bid on his services. Lewis has openly paraded his interest in the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Jets and is particularly enamored of the Cowboys, according to Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Ware.

Meanwhile, the Ravens are working hard to hold onto inside linebacker Bart Scott by attempting to lock him up to a long-term deal today prior to the start of free agency.

It's believed that Scott could command a lot of money as a free agent, potentially drawing interest from several teams, including the New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, St. Louis Rams, Kansas City Chiefs and the Arizona Cardinals.

There were no significant developments in negotiations Wednesday, according to Scott's agent, Harold Lewis, but it's believed a lot more progress has been made on the Scott front than any other prospective deal.

"We're still hoping for the same thing, that Bart can remain in Baltimore," Lewis said. "That's our No. 1 goal. Hopefully, something can be worked out."

Newsome didn't offer a prediction on whether the Ravens will be particularly active or inactive in free agency, which begins Friday morning at 12:01 a.m.

"We have to wait and see who's available," Newsome said. "We'll be adjusting our board over the next three days. We don't know who's going to make it to free agency because teams will be re-signing their own players and guys will be getting cut. It happens every year."

With an estimated $19.4 million in salary cap space under the new league limit of $127 million after applying a $10.2 million franchise tag to Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, a figure that doesn't included restricted free agent and exclusive-rights free agent tenders, the Ravens could use help at cornerback, wide receiver, center and offensive tackle.

Among the free agent cornerbacks that might be worth exploring for the Ravens are the Buffalo Bills' Jabari Greer, the St. Louis Rams' Ronald Bartell, the Pittsburgh Steelers' Bryant McFadden, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Phillip Buchanon and the Miami Dolphins' Andre' Goodman.

A thin wide receiver class headlined by Cincinnati Bengals standout T.J. Houshmandzadeh was bolstered somewhat by the release of Indianapolis Colts standout Marvin Harrison, whose declining game and advancing age may preclude teams from making big offers. Plus, the Jets have cut starting wideout Laveranues Coles.

A lower-profile move would be signing wideout Bryant Johnson, a Baltimore native who visited the Ravens coming out of Penn State and played last season for the San Francisco 49ers after being drafted originally by the Cardinals.

If the Ravens don't opt to shift former second-round draft pick Chris Chester into center Jason Brown's old spot if Brown, as expected, departs Baltimore for a blockbuster free agent contract Friday, possibly with the Washington Redskins, Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars or Minnesota Vikings, then former Colts center Jeff Saturday, 33, could be a strong veteran alternative.

It's rumored that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is ready to put together a huge offer for Brown and perhaps hand-deliver it after midnight in a limousine.

Among the offensive tackles available that could be of interest: Stacy Andrews (Cincinnati Bengals), Marvel Smith (Steelers) and Eagles free agents Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan.

"We adjust our boards based on who signs and who gets released," Newsome said. "We'll be watching the market."

NOTES: It's believed the Ravens have retained restricted free agent punter Sam Koch, strong safety Dawan Landry and wide receiver Demetrius Williams with $1.54 million second-round tenders. ... The Ravens are interested in signing Koch to a contract extension. ... Cornerback Derrick Martin is expected to sign a one-year contract later this week.


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