OWINGS MILLS — The process of trying to hammer out contracts for Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and center Matt Birk is about to enter the next phase.
The agent for Flacco and Birk is scheduled to meet with team officials in the next seven to 10 days for contract talks, following up on a preliminary meeting in Indianapolis at the NFL scouting combine last month.
Birk, 35, is an unrestricted free agent who has no plans to retire after contemplating his future following the Baltimore Ravens’ AFC title game loss to the New England Patriots.
A six-time Pro Bowl center, Birk prefers to play for the Baltimore Ravens.
"Matt’s desire is to remain with the Ravens, if a deal can be reached," agent Joe Linta told 24×7. "We’ll be talking with them."
Birk is also expected to command interest on the free agent market. He was paid $3 million last season.
Birk has dealt with hip, knee and neck problems, but the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year is healthy now. He has started 96 consecutive games.
"We want to have him back if he wants to come back," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said at the scouting combine. "He got through the year healthy and we think he can still play. We need a center and he’s a great guy. We want him back."
Linta described the initial meeting with team officials as "positive," and is upbeat about the Ravens’ level of commitment to work out a long-term deal for Flacco.
Flacco is entering the final year of his contract and the team, including owner, Steve Bisciotti, have made it clear that locking him up to a long-term deal is their primary offseason focus.
"With Joe, we’re just going to sit down and start grinding out a contract and terms,” Bisciotti said after the season ended. "I think he’s going to be extremely successful, I think he’s going to have rings. He’s got 10 years of his prime to show it.
"I think that he will be rewarded for his personality in the long run, and I think our fans will, too. We’re going to stay the course. We believe in him. We believe he is getting stronger mentally and smarter with the ball.”