Adding Pryce decreases hit

Ravens agree to terms with former Bronco after losing two defensive linemen, Taylor


The Ravens salvaged what had been a discouraging first day of free agency by reaching an agreement in principle with defensive end Trevor Pryce, his agent confirmed yesterday.

Pryce, a four-time Pro Bowl defender for the Denver Broncos, will sign a five-year, $25 million contract, which includes $10 million in guaranteed money.

The addition of Pryce was the lone positive on a day when the Ravens lost backup running back Chester Taylor to the Minnesota Vikings, as well as two starting defensive linemen rated among the top 15 free agents available.

Nose tackle Maake Kemoeatu, who was the Ravens' priority this offseason, agreed to a five-year, $27.5 million deal (which includes a $6 million signing bonus) with the Carolina Panthers. Defensive end Tony Weaver will sign a contract that includes $13 million in guaranteed money with the Houston Texans.

When the Ravens realized they wouldn't be keeping Weaver - they unsuccessfully tried to match Houston's offer in the end, a league source said - they increased their pursuit of Pryce and beat out five other teams for the nine-year veteran. Although Pryce's production has dropped off the past two seasons, it is believed he will have a bigger impact in the pass rush than Weaver.

"He's very, very excited to go to a veteran club," agent Peter Schaffer said. "When you have Ray Lewis, Samari Rolle, Chris McAlister, Ed Reed and now a Trevor Pryce, they have a pretty formidable defense."

Ravens officials declined to comment until Pryce signs his contract early this week.

Pryce, 30, ranks sixth in Broncos history with 60 career sacks and earned four consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl from 1999 to 2002.

There has been some concern in league circles that Pryce has lost his burst and will never reach his previous productivity. A herniated disc in his lower back sidelined him for 14 games in 2004, the first game action he missed in more than four years. He managed four sacks in 16 games last season and recorded just 15 tackles in his last nine games.

But the Ravens' personnel department has always had Pryce rated among the best defensive linemen over the years.

It didn't take Pryce much time to warm up to the Ravens either after seeing their $31 million training complex on the team's Web site.

"[Pryce] told me, `Get me there. That's the nicest facility I've seen in my life,'" Schaffer said.

The Ravens were unable to fill the void at nose tackle as easily.

After losing Kemoeatu, the Ravens contacted veteran Ted Washington but the sides aren't close on an agreement. The Ravens and the Cleveland Browns are expected to resume talks with Washington today.

Leaving the Ravens wasn't easy for Kemoeatu, who went from undrafted rookie to coveted starter in four seasons. Kemoeatu got "physically sick" when he made his decision, which ultimately came down to money.

"The Ravens were very, very aggressive," agent Ken Vierra said. "At the end of the day, another team said we really have to have this guy and got more aggressive by millions."

Taylor's reason to bolt from the Ravens to the Minnesota Vikings could have come down to more than finances. He signed a four-year, $14.1 million deal with the Vikings (includes $5.6 million in guaranteed money) after turning down a five-year, $17 million offer from the Ravens on Friday.

At his news conference in Minnesota, Taylor acknowledged that he needed a "fresh start" after being a backup with the Ravens for four years.

"Just standing on the sideline was killing me a little bit, but I did what I had to do for them," Taylor said. "I'll give this team my best now that I'm here."

The Ravens never negotiated with Taylor yesterday, putting their focus on running back Jamal Lewis. Although there were talks with Lewis, it is believed the Ravens are only offering a two-year deal, which is shorter than the one extended to Taylor.

"Nothing is imminent," said Mitch Frankel, the agent for Lewis.

If the Ravens are unable to make progress with Lewis, it is believed they will look at running back Edgerrin James, who reportedly visited the Arizona Cardinals this weekend.

Notes -- Agent David Dunn, who represents Kerry Collins, did not return phone calls yesterday but told the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday that the quarterback is interested in joining the Ravens. "I think that would be an ideal situation for Kerry," Dunn said. ... Linebacker Bart Scott met with the Browns yesterday. He is deciding whether to next visit Arizona or



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