Birk Becomes a Raven

The Baltimore Ravens have found their replacement for starting C Jason Brown. The Minnesota Vikings will have to find a replacement for Matt Birk.

The Baltimore Ravens have reached a three-year, $12 million deal with free agent C Matt Birk, has confirmed. The deal includes $6 million worth of guaranteed money. Birk will make $9 million in the first two years of the contract. The 32-year old offensive lineman also considered a contract offer from the team that drafted him, the Minnesota Vikings, but chose the Ravens. Birk arrived in the Baltimore area late on Tuesday afternoon to meet with team officials and met with the team again on Wednesday. first reported that Birk agreed to terms with the Ravens.

The durable 11-year pro hasn't missed a game in his last three seasons and will take over in the middle of the Raven offensive line for Jason Brown, who signed with the St. Louis Rams.

Leaving the Minneapolis area will be hard for the St. Paul, Minnesota native.

The former sixth-round pick out of the 1998 draft was named the Vikings Man of the Year for the seventh straight season and was one of three finalists for the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2008. Birk is known as one of the league's most charitable players.

On the field, Birk's story is an interesting one. After two years in a backup role in most of the positions along the offensive line, Birk got his shot at a starting spot and became a Pro Bowl center in his first season starting (2000). He was named to the Pro Bowl team again in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2007.

In 2007, he earned his sixth Pro Bowl berth, matching Mick Tingelhoff for most Pro Bowls by a Vikings center. He also finished the season with 107 career starts at center and was part of an offensive line that helped the Vikings set a franchise mark with 2,634 rushing yards and a team-record 5.33 yards per carry in 2007.

Over the years, Birk helped pave the way for four of the five top single-season rushing performances in team history – Robert Smith's 1,521 yards in 2000, Adrian Peterson's 1,341 in 2007, Michael Bennett's 1,296 in 2002 and Chester Taylor's 1,214 in 2006. He was part of Peterson's NFL-record 296-yard rushing performance against San Diego on Nov. 4, 2007 and part of Peterson and Taylor setting the team record for most combined rushing yards in a single season.

With Birk out of the picture now with the Vikings, the team has holes on their offensive line at right tackle and center.

"The Minnesota Vikings thank Matt for all he did for the organization both on and off the field over the past 11 years. Matt has done a great job and we wanted him to return to the Vikings in '09, but at this point Matt wanted a change of scenery. We wish him the best and know that he will always be a part of the Vikings family. We look forward to playing Matt this upcoming season at the Metrodome," Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress said in a statement released by the team.

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