Wright, O. Brown agree to contracts

Ravens retain free agents

A. Thomas not yet in fold

March 13, 2004|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

After taking much of this week to weigh their respective options, quarterback Anthony Wright and right tackle Orlando Brown thought it prudent to return to the team they helped win a division title last year.

Wright and Brown agreed to contracts with the Ravens yesterday, ending an eight-day period in which the team locked up four of its top six free agents. Wright will sign a two-year deal likely worth around $3 million, and Brown will sign a five-year, $17.5 million contract with a $4 million signing bonus.

The two join kicker Matt Stover and center Mike Flynn as free agents retained by the club. The Ravens remain in negotiations with linebacker Adalius Thomas, their last major free agent who has yet to sign, and could have a deal in place as early as the middle of next week.

Receiver Marcus Robinson is the only top player the Ravens have lost to free agency, and the team hopes to fill that void with Terrell Owens if last week's trade with the San Francisco 49ers is validated.

"We had contingency plans across the board, for Matt Stover, for Mike Flynn, for Anthony Wright, for [Brown]," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We're very pleased each of those athletes is going to return to us. That's always been our No. 1 priority, to get those guys and AD [Thomas] back."

Wright had drawn interest from the Tennessee Titans, who were looking to bring him in for a visit, and the Denver Broncos, but would have been a backup with either team.

The Ravens made it clear before free agency began that he would enter next season as a backup if he re-signed, despite going 5-2 as a starter and helping lead the team to its first division title.

Kyle Boller, who started the first nine games of the season before suffering a quadriceps injury, will enter training camp as the starter.

"It's asking a lot of Anthony to come back on a team where he has been an instrumental part in winning a division; to come back again in a backup position, that's a lot to ask of a player. We appreciate him doing that," Billick said.

With no clear-cut offers to start for other teams, Wright felt it would be best to remain with the Ravens, where the backup quarterback has started at least two games in all five of Billick's seasons as coach.

"I felt like it would be better for me to stay here because I already had camaraderie with my teammates," said Wright, who had a .528 completion percentage, 1,199 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions last year. "I feel like this team is heading in the right direction.

"Looking at the history and knowing that I've played with this team, if my chance comes again to play, I would be ready and comfortable. I've been in this system two years now, and I feel very confident in this team and coaching staff."

Brown, too, drew interest from other teams, including the Oakland Raiders, who likely would have offered a similar deal. But Brown, who could not be reached to comment yesterday, has stated numerous times that he preferred to remain with the Ravens because of the proximity to his children and parents, all of whom live within a 45-mile radius.

Although the Ravens were disappointed after Brown's meltdown in the playoff loss to the Titans -- in which the sometimes volatile player was hit with two unnecessary-roughness penalties -- the team felt it was key to keep intact a line that helped Jamal Lewis rush for more than 2,000 yards.

Ravens officials do not expect such foolishness out of Brown next year.

"It was a learning moment that I think he will learn from," Billick said. "Hopefully that type of thing is behind us, and I believe it is because there could not have been a more poignant lesson."

Thomas, meanwhile, declined to say if he plans to visit other teams.

"We've been talking, and we're close with numbers and everything," Thomas said of his negotiations with the Ravens. "It's just a process that you go through. Hopefully by next week we can have this thing done."

Asked what he finds so appealing about the Ravens after the team invested a first-round pick in Terrell Suggs last year and seems ready to increase his playing time at the expense of Thomas, the Pro Bowl special teams player said, "Why get up and move your family if you don't have to? I like Baltimore, and I know how I'm going to be used here. It's more than just starting."

NOTES: Cornerback Tom Knight, who spent the past two seasons with the Ravens, agreed to a free-agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. ... The Ravens have expressed interest in Spencer Folau as a backup offensive tackle. The Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints are also in the running for the former Raven. ... John Jones, the Ravens' No. 3 tight end last season, said he has visited the St. Louis Rams.

Sun staff writer Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.

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