OWINGS MILLS — A high-stakes auction between the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Jets for inside linebacker Bart Scott ended Friday with Scott cashing in with the Jets on a six-year, $48 million contract that includes $22 million in guaranteed money.
Ravens free agent center Jason Brown has agreed to a five-year, $37.5 million contract with the St. Louis Rams that included $20 million in guaranteed money in the first two years, according to Brown’s agent, Harold Lewis.
Meanwhile, Ravens star middle linebacker Ray Lewis endured a long day of silent treatment from NFL teams during his first venture into unrestricted free agency after 13 seasons in Baltimore. There’s still a strong chance Lewis could return to Baltimore since other teams haven’t been pursuing him.
The Jets grew concerned when Scott’s agent reopened talks with the Ravens during Scott’s visit to the Jets’ headquarters as speculation mounted that Scott was considering returning to Baltimore. Ultimately, the Ravens were unwilling to match the Jets’ proposal that included $27 million in compensation over the first three years of a deal that reunites Scott with former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, the Jets’ head coach.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Lewis, Scott’s agent. “Even though he’s so excited about the Jets, it’s also a very sad feeling because he started his career in Baltimore with a $500 signing bonus. He grew up there.
“It was a very tough decision. I don’t have final say. It’s up to the player and he has to feel 100 percent comfortable. After spending all morning and afternoon with the Jets, Bart told me, ‘I absolutely love it here.’”
As the Ravens’ second-leading tackler last season, Scott was in heavy demand. It’s believed that Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome went as high as $42 million for Scott, but the team was unwilling to boost their offer to match the Jets’ proposal.
“I called up Ozzie and told him what we’ve got on the table,” Lewis said. “Ozzie said, ‘I think you’re making a mistake, we love Bart, we think he’s a great football player and a great person, but I’m very happy for him.’ He said, ‘We’re going to miss Bart.’ Ozzie handled it with class.”
Lewis denied that he had caused a bidding war to ensue.
“There was never a bidding war,” he said. “We had an acceptable offer from the Jets and we were just waiting for Bart to green-light the deal. During that time when I was negotiating with the Rams, people started speculating. People thought Bart had left town. He went to the mall with Rex to go shopping.”
As for Brown, the Rams came very close to matching his $8 million asking price. The former fourth-round draft pick leaves Baltimore after starting every game at center last season and 28 games at left guard in the previous two years.
Ray Lewis hasn’t scheduled any visits. The Dallas Cowboys haven’t gotten in touch with Lewis despite heavy speculation that they were going to go after him.
So, Lewis is apparently still mulling over the Ravens’ three-year, $24 million offer that’s believed to include $17 million in guaranteed money.
Now that Scott has departed, it’s expected that Lewis will try to use the Ravens’ need for an inside linebacker as leverage. Without another competing suitor to drive up the price, it appears unlikely that Lewis will be paid more than the Ravens’ initial offer prior to free agency.
Lewis is said to be fuming over the lack of interest. He’s in South Florida with his family this weekend.
The Ravens have displayed preliminary interest in Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Marvel Smith.