THE GRAPEVINE: GM’s start your engines

Lombardi's Way THE GRAPEVINE: GM’s start your engines

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This promises to be one of the more interesting free agent seasons in quite some time given the first uncapped season since the 90’s and the plethora of restricted free agents sporting a variety of tender offers.

Despite the uncapped designation there will not be wild spending by the wealthier teams such as the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins thanks to some forward looking safeguards (aka poison pills) included in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Most teams have indicated that despite the cap’s absence they will remain fiscally responsible and adhere to well planned budgets. Even the Redskins have indicated that they won’t be making any big free agent signing splashes. The buzz and the whispers have the players union on edge and consequently the concept of collusion amongst the owners has been tossed out into the court of public opinion.

With that said here’s a quick look at some of the rumors and goings on in the world of free agency, starting with the locals and then touching on some of the non-Ravens-related scuttlebutt.

The Denver Broncos have set their sights on two Ravens’ unrestricted free agent defensive linemen: Justin Bannan and Dwan Edwards. Bannan has some ties to the Rocky Mountain community having been a Colorado University Buffalo. Edwards hails from Oregon State.

It is difficult to envision a scenario in which both return to the Ravens and the bet here is that Edwards will be offered money that the Ravens simply won’t match. In the past the team has opted not to match top market offers to D-Linemen such as Lional Dalton, Marques Douglas and Aubrayo Franklin.

The Ravens and Derrick Mason were unable to reach an agreement prior to the free agency period and as a result Mason will test the market. The relationship remains amiable and the guess here is that the Ravens will get an opportunity to meet or beat Mason’s best offer. The Dolphins are said to have interest in the Ravens’ all-time leader in receiving yards (4,975).

Word is that the Ravens are interested in free agent TE Brandon Manumaleuna. According to multiple sources Manumaleuna’s relationship with Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is key to the team’s pursuit of the 30-year-old blocking tight end. Manumaleuna is a nine year veteran, drafted in the fourth round by the Rams in 2001 where he played for five seasons. Manumaleuna has played in 142 of a possible 144 regular season games during which he’s accumulated 110 catches for 965 yards and 12 TD’s.

Another player who is reportedly drawing the interest of Ozzie Newsome is Houston Texans wide receiver Kevin Walter. Unfortunately for Ozzie he isn’t alone. The Patriots, Browns, Jaguars and Bucs have all rumored to be in the mix. Walter was a 7th round pick by the Giants in 2003. He was eventually cut by New York and picked up by the Bengals where he served as a backup for three seasons. He moved on to Houston and has become a solid No. 2 receiver opposite Andre Johnson. Over the past three seasons Walter has averaged 59 catches for 770 yards and 5 scores.

A source who wishes to remain unnamed has informed 24×7 that the Ravens did pursue trade options for Willis McGahee. One included a third round pick in exchange for the former Pro Bowler and another had him swapping coasts with Chargers CB Antonio Cromartie (who has since been traded to the Jets for a conditional 2011 pick). The source now indicates that McGahee will remain a Raven, a move fully supported by the coaching staff including Cam Cameron who according to some isn’t exactly a Willis McGahee Facebook friend.

In the wild and wacky department, the same source has said that there have been discussions about bringing in former Eagles’ RB Bryant Westbrook, an extremely well liked player and one that Coach John Harbaugh is very familiar with.
 
Where would Westbrook fit? Well the word is (are you sitting?) that Westbrook would back up Willis McGahee. Yes you read that correctly. In this rather dramatic scenario Ray Rice would be dealt for a first and a second round pick to an unnamed team that apparently highly covets the former Rutgers’ star.

Elsewhere…

The Arizona Cardinals apparently are willing to trade wide receiver Anquan Boldin for a third-round pick, according to Michael Lombardi of the NFL Network. Now keep in mind the Ravens traveled the path to Boldin while on the clock during the 2009 NFL Draft. The issue then and probably now isn’t the draft compensation required for the Pro Bowl wideout. Unless Boldin has tempered his contractual demands the deal still might not happen. This is one to keep an eye on because the feeling here is that there will be some give and take on both ends and a compromised could be reached, albeit not very soon.

Pulling a page from the Rex Ryan handbook for recruiting desirable free agents, Lions’ head coach and Baltimore native Jimmy Schwartz showed up at Kyle Vanden Bosch’s house very early this morning. A similar ploy worked last year when Ryan landed former Raven LB Bart Scott.

Former Ravens Center Casey Rabach agreed to a three-year, $12.3 million deal to re-sign with the Redskins. The 32-year-old Rabach played four years here in Baltimore and has played his last five seasons in Washington. The move provides a bit of stability for Mike Shanahan’s offensive line. Yesterday the Redskins parted ways with tackle Chris Samuels and guard Randy Thomas.

Ravens fans hoping to add a little spice to the team’s defense can relax. It ain’t gonna happen folks. Julius Peppers will more than likely land in the Windy City. Yesterday Bears’ head coach Lovie Smith flew in to Charlotte, NC to meet with the coveted Panther and word is he’s taken him back to Chicago.

This one sounds like a full court press and the bet here is that Peppers will be a Bear before the weekend is out.

Another former Raven who is also attracting the attention of the Bears is Chester Taylor. Nobody asked me but Taylor should probably confer with Matt Forte whose production slipped markedly in ’09 behind a rather suspect Bears’ offensive line. It’s interesting to see the success of former Bears Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson now that they’ve departed the confines of Soldier Field. The bidding for Chester reportedly is opening at $8 million guaranteed to the 30-year-old multi-purpose back.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts "The Fanimal" also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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