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OWINGS MILLS — The Baltimore Ravens have expanded their focus beyond their ongoing negotiations with running back Jamal Lewis, and have held preliminary discussions with other free agent runners.
While the Ravens could still wind up signing Lewis, they are looking at other options. Potential candidates include Corey Dillon, Dominic Rhodes and Chris Brown.
â€œWe are holding conversations with the agents for other running backs,â€ Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome said Monday. â€œWe are still talking with Jamal.â€
The agent for Dillon has repeatedly mentioned Baltimore as one of three teams heâ€™s interested in along with the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles, but would likely favor Baltimore. Dillon, 32, was cut Saturday by the New England Patriots.
The agent for former Tennessee Titans starter Chris Brown expressed optimism that the Ravens could be a good fit for Brown, who was replacing in the starting lineup by Travis Henry last season. Brown, who has an upright running style at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, has rushed for 2,295 career yards and 11 touchdowns in four seasons.
â€œWeâ€™re taking a strong look at Baltimore, and I think the chemistry with Steve McNair is something Baltimore is going to value,â€ said Wynn Silberman, Brownâ€™s agent, who spoke with team officials Monday afternoon. â€œIt would be an easy transition. Chris is a player. He unfortunately received the short end of the stick last year and is looking for a place where he can show what he’s capable of."
Brown is also garnering interest from the Green Bay Packers, Eagles, Jets and Titans.
The price for a starting running back is getting expensive as the Denver Broncos signed Henry to a deal with $12 million in guaranteed money while Ahman Green agreed to terms with the Houston Texans for $6.5 million in guaranteed money.
Also, LaMont Jordan is staying with the Oakland Raiders after reducing his roster bonus Monday.
The Ravens are unlikely to get involved in a potential trade for disgruntled Buffalo Bills running back Willis McGahee. McGahee is entering the final year of his contract, and agent Drew Rosenhaus would likely seek a long-term, lucrative contract.
Meanwhile, Newsome confirmed that the Ravens are done addressing the outside linebacker position after quickly signing Jarret Johnson to replace All-Pro Adalius Thomas after he joined the New England Patriots.
Because of the decision to sign Johnson, the Ravens will not be in the hunt for former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Joey Porter. With the Ravens’ tight salary-cap situation, he would have likely been too expensive as he’s expected to seek an annual salary in excess of $5 million.
â€œWhen AD was doing all of those versatile things and playing all of those positions, Jarret was right there doing many of those same things,â€ Newsome said. â€œWe think Jarret can be an extremely productive player for us at â€˜Samâ€™ linebacker.â€
Johnson’s contract was initially reported as a three-year, $13 million deal, but the team announced Monday that it’s a six-year pact. Because the contract hasn’t been processed yet, the yearly salary breakdown wasn’t immediately available according to NFL Players Association officials.
The Ravens are not inclined toward pursuing free agent offensive tackles after right tackle Tony Pashos signed a five-year, $24 million contract with the Jacksonvillle Jaguars.
The Ravens will likely install left tackle Adam Terry, a 6-foot-8, 330-pound former second-round draft pick, at right tackle.
â€œIf we had to play a game today, Adam Terry would be our starting right tackle,â€ Newsome said.
While team officials and teammates are hopeful that All-Pro left tackle Jonathan Ogden will return, most believe it will only be for one more season. Baltimore interviewed Penn State offensive tackle Levi Brown at the NFL scouting combine and could draft a tackle.
With Ovie Mughelli joining the Atlanta Falcons as the richest fullback in league history with a six-year, $18 million deal, the Ravens could look at former Detroit Lions starter Cory Schlesinger to fill the void or draft a fullback.
Schlesinger, 34, is a 12-year veteran with a bruising reputation. Nicknamed â€œSledgehammer,â€ Schlesinger once broke 23 face masks in one season according to the Lions’ equipment manager.
â€œWe will address fullback either during free agency or during the draft,â€ Newsome said.
Since free agency began Friday, the Ravens have lost four players as Pashos, Mughelli, Thomas and backup nose guard Aubrayo Franklin took advantage of the bullish market. To sign the four homegrown Baltimore free agents, teams spent a total of $37 million in guaranteed money on contracts with a total maximum value of $85.5 million.
The development wasnâ€™t a surprise to Newsome, who forecast how rich the bidding would likely become with the salary cap increasing to $109 million. Thatâ€™s a 27.5 percent increase from the $85.5 million limit two years ago.
â€œThe numbers that were being talked about during the combine pretty much were the numbers people got during the first days of free agency,â€ Newsome said. â€œIt was what we expected.â€
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland