Browns force Ravens' hand, sign C. Taylor to an offer sheet

Team has option to match Cleveland's one-year bid

March 17, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

As a Ravens executive, Phil Savage seemingly made all the right decisions.

Now, in his first season as the Cleveland Browns' general manager, he is forcing the Ravens into a difficult one.

The Ravens are evaluating the cost and consequences of their running back situation after the Browns signed backup Chester Taylor to a one-year offer sheet worth $3 million.

That high offer, which indicates Taylor would compete for a starting job in Cleveland, would appear to be out of the Ravens' range for a backup, but team officials didn't dismiss the possibility of matching it to keep their restricted free agent.

There is a one-week window for the Ravens to make a decision.

"We feel like Chester Taylor is a very good running back, and we will take that full allotment of time," team spokesman Kevin Byrne said.

If they allow Taylor to leave, the Ravens would receive a sixth-round pick as compensation but sustain a significant blow.

Their only other running backs are Jamal Lewis and Musa Smith, both of whom are coming off injury-marred seasons. Lewis (ankle) and Smith (broken leg) are rehabilitating from surgeries, although they are on schedule to be fully recovered by the regular season.

Taylor proved last season that he could be a starter, averaging 84 yards in six games when he was the primary back.

Taylor drew interest from Cleveland because the Ravens only assigned him the low tender of $656,000. If they had extended him the middle tender of $1.43 million (which results in a first-round pick as compensation), they could have retained him at a much lower price than the offer sheet.

NOTE: Backup offensive lineman Cooper Carlisle backed out of an agreement in principle with the Ravens and re-signed with Denver. "It wasn't an easy decision for him to make because he had given his verbal authorization to go forward in good faith," said Frank Murtha, who noted this is the first time one of his players had reneged in his 30 years as an agent. "At the end of the day, it was best for his family. But the Ravens' organization did everything they had to do. Ultimately it came down to his final choice, which came a little later than most."

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