OWINGS MILLS — Intent on bolstering the secondary by retaining at least one of their starting cornerbacks from last season, the Baltimore Ravens locked up Chris Carr for the next four seasons.
The Ravens struck a deal with the unrestricted free agent days after cornerback Josh Wilson signed a $13.5 million contract with the Washington Redskins.
Meanwhile, veteran nose guard Kelly Gregg declined the Ravens’ $1.5 million offer to return to Baltimore and signed a one-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.
"I’m excited," Carr told Ravens24x7.com in a telephone interview. "There were numerous teams interested. Obviously, I love everything about this place. I almost did leave, but I thought it wouldn’t have been worth it.
"You want to be at a place where you’re happy and winning and you feel like the coaches respect you and the players respect you. It’s just a great place. I’m happy it worked out. I’m glad it’s over with."
Carr had said he wanted to return only if he would have a big role on the defense.
That could mean anything from Carr starting opposite Domonique Foxworth, whom he stepped in for last year when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament, first-round draft pick Jimmy Smith or Lardarius Webb. Carr could also operate as the Ravens’ nickel back one season removed from starting every game and recording a career-high 61 tackles, two interceptions and eight pass deflections.
"Chris is really a great fit for us because he is so versatile," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He’s inside, he’s outside. I know he talked about wanting to be a starter, and we certainly consider him a starter. He is getting starter money. That’s how we see him.
"Obviously, it’s competitive here and that’s the thing that Chris relished. That’s why he wants to be here because he understands that the best players are going to play and the best players are always the guys who are playing the best."
Harbaugh said he envisions the Ravens keeping several cornerbacks on the active roster, also mentioning Cary Williams and fifth-round pick Chykie Brown, who has been impressive so far in camp.
"You can’t have enough corners," Harbaugh said. "You have to be able to cover the quick passes. People wanted to get away from pressure last year. They just stood up and threw the ball out there. Sometimes, we defended it and sometimes we didn’t. It’s going to be a nice battle out there, and we could easily carry six corners on this team."
Carr chose to remain with the Ravens after talking with the New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars and the San Francisco 49ers, among other NFL teams.
Carr acknowledged that waiting to see where his friend, newly-minted Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, was going to wind up affected his situation and other free agent cornerbacks because they were fallback options for teams that didn’t land the former Oakland Raiders star.
"It’s a waiting game, and the Nnamdi situation held up everything," Carr said. "Nnamdi is one of my best friends and I was waiting for him to hurry up. That was funny. I was talking to him and we were laughing and he told me he was probably going to Philly and he said [reporters] have no clue what’s going on."
Carr emerged as the most reliable presence in the secondary outside of All-Pro free safety Ed Reed last season.
Now, he’s going to be with the Ravens for the next several seasons.
"Hopefully, I’ll finish my career here," Carr said. "I’m happy to be back."
After playing for the Ravens for the past decade, Gregg is leaving town after receiving a $1 million bonus and a significantly higher total financial package than what Baltimore was offering.
"We were talking to Kelly and Kansas City just gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse," Harbaugh said. "We just wish him the best, obviously. It’s the best thing for his family financially, and we’re happy for him."
A gritty presence in the middle of the Ravens’ defense in front of middle linebacker Ray Lewis, Gregg did the dirty work inside for years.
And now his tenure in Baltimore is officially over.
"We’re sad to lose him," linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "You know we wanted Kelly here. It’s not the same locker room without Kelly. So, sorry to lose him, but glad to see him land in a good spot with a good contract. I think he kind of expected it, but I know he wanted to be here. It’s a tough situation, and you get to that stage in your career and the front office has got to make moves. We’re all going to be there one day."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times