2 linebackers, Ravens close to redone deals

Agent for Boulware, Lewis to meet with team today

`Pretty good shot' at completion

Team estimates increase of $5M in salary cap room

July 31, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

For the first time in five months of negotiations, agent Roosevelt Barnes can see the goal line.

Barnes, who shares representation of Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware, stopped by Ravens training camp yesterday as a last-ditch effort to restructure the contracts of the Pro Bowl linebackers and left a 2 1/2 -hour meeting smiling.

"This is the closest that we've been all summer," said Barnes, who will return to McDaniel College for another round of talks today. "I think we have a pretty good shot at getting something done."

Under their current contracts, Lewis is scheduled to earn $4.75 million in each of the final two years, and Boulware is expected to make $4.3 million in the last year of his deal.

By restructuring, the team would lower the cap impact by dropping a player's base salary and giving him upfront bonus money, which is prorated over a longer contract. The Ravens have estimated they could gain $5 million of much-needed wiggle room under this year's salary cap and could possibly add three to four veteran free agents to one of the league's youngest rosters.

At this point, there appears to be more optimism about getting a deal done with one of their linebackers than reaching an agreement with first-round pick Ed Reed, whose holdout has reached six days.

"Roosevelt came to town at the request of Ray and Pete and came with the intentions of closing the deal," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' senior vice president of football operations. "Hopefully in the near future, we will be able to accomplish that."

But the deals are far from certainty.

A league source indicated there's been a long-term deal discussed that would give Lewis an NFL-record signing bonus of $21 to $22 million. Boulware could receive a bonus of approximately $10 million, the source added.

It is believed that the Ravens are closer to reworking Lewis' deal.

Lewis, 27, is considered one of the best players in the league and was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 2000. Boulware, 27, is one of the league's most-feared pass rushers and led the AFC with a career-best 15 sacks last season.

When asked how far the sides are separated, Barnes said: "Lots of dollars ... millions of dollars."

If they can restructure both contracts, the Ravens can significantly upgrade a roster decimated by a recent salary cap purge.

Their wish list is believed to include: defensive tackle Sam Adams, receiver Antonio Freeman, fullback Sam Gash, free safety Eric Brown and offensive lineman Ben Coleman. But Ravens officials indicated they want to discuss Freeman's role face-to-face before signing the Baltimore native.

The biggest impact player of the group is Adams, who was a Pro Bowl performer in his two seasons with the Ravens. Adams, who is also a Barnes client, has received one-year offers from the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, but the Ravens have an advantage because they are the only team willing to give him a multi-year contract.

"If they can figure out some ways they can get him the compensation that he needs, then he can be here," Barnes said. "Sam is not in any hurry. You don't make any money in August anyway. As long as you're ready to play in September, that's what really counts. Sam will be ready to play and he'll be an All-Pro again this year."

The sides have agreed on one aspect: They don't want negotiations of Lewis' and Boulware's new contracts to drag on much longer.

"It would be wise to come out and see if we can get something done before we got far along into the preseason so the guys could really focus on getting ready to be the best they can be during the season," Barnes said. "I think it is somewhat of a distraction when you don't know exactly what is going to happen.

"With all the speculation, we felt it was necessary for us to get together face-to-face and put the thing to bed. We're either going to do something or we're not. And if we're not, then we'll address this thing after the season."

The only disappointment for Barnes was not meeting Ravens coach Brian Billick. The two had a public war of words a month ago, when Lewis and Boulware skipped a couple of passing camps.

"That's really why I came," a grinning Barnes said. "That's my boy. I like him."

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