J. Lewis likely on way out

Ogden return a necessity

January 16, 2007|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

LIKELY TO GO

Running back Jamal Lewis

Why: Lewis has averaged under 4 yards a carry the past two seasons and has not shown any big-play explosiveness since gaining 2,066 yards in 2003. It might be time for the Ravens to add some young legs.

Where he could end up: When Lewis was a free agent last year, the Denver Broncos were the only other team that showed interest in him. Now, after his third straight mediocre season, Lewis might have limited options.

Who could replace him with Ravens: The Ravens have a couple of options: Draft a running back or trade a first-round pick to the San Diego Chargers for restricted free agent Michael Turner. Two power backs in the draft who fit the Ravens' mold are Louisville's Michael Bush and Penn State's Tony Hunt. As Indianapolis and New England did this season, the Ravens could find a good running back at the end of the first round and rotate him with a veteran backup (Mike Anderson is still under contract).

NEEDS TO STAY

Linebacker Adalius Thomas

Why he needs to stay: The Ravens need him so much that they are poised to use the franchise tag on Thomas, the most versatile player on the NFL's top-ranked defense. He is a playmaker who could not be immediately replaced.

Why he might go: The Ravens traditionally don't like to use the tag on players because it creates animosity by keeping them off the free-agent market. If the Ravens don't franchise Thomas, he would be a top-10 free agent.

Prediction: General manager Ozzie Newsome doesn't like to let talent leave, especially when the Ravens' window could only be another season. It appears the Ravens will use the tag on Thomas.

Tackle Jonathan Ogden

Why he needs to stay: Backup Adam Terry played surprisingly well against tough pass rushers in two games, but he's not an elite player like Ogden. With Ogden at left tackle, quarterback Steve McNair never had to worry about his blind side.

Why he might go: Ogden loves living in Las Vegas with his wife and 1-year-old son. If he doesn't feel the passion to come back, he'll leave on his terms.

Prediction: Ogden knows the Ravens are set up for another strong season. The lure of a second Super Bowl will bring him back.

Tackle Tony Pashos

Why he needs to stay: With his hard work this season, Pashos has become one of the top tackles heading into free agency. The Ravens will make him a priority because there might not be a viable replacement at right tackle out there in free agency or on the team (Terry is a natural left tackle).

Why he might go: Because of the lack of available starting tackles, a team could offer a bigger-than-expected contract to Pashos. The Ravens usually place a value on a player and are reluctant to budge if the numbers exceed that.

Prediction: Pashos has a strong comfort level with the team and his teammates. His first choice is the Ravens. If they make a fair offer, Pashos would stay.

ROLES LIKELY TO CHANGE

Center Mike Flynn

Why role could change: There are rumblings that the Ravens will ask Flynn to restructure his contract and become the primary backup at center and guard. Rookie second-round pick Chris Chester seems poised to start next season.

Why role could stay same: Flynn might not be the strongest center at the point of attack, but he has always been the emotional leader of the line. Plus, he knows the system after starting six years at center.

Guard Edwin Mulitalo

Why role could change: The Ravens have to wonder whether there is a spot on the roster for Mulitalo after Jason Brown did a solid job in replacing him for the final 12 games. There's more of an upside with Brown because he is younger and less expensive.

Why role could stay same: Ogden would likely prefer to play alongside Mulitalo because he formed a chemistry with him over seven seasons together. But Mulitalo, who will be 33 next season, has to prove he can physically hold up.

ROLES COULD CHANGE

Wide receiver Derrick Mason

Why role could change: Mason's comments about being "unappreciated" might be an indication that he feels his starting job is being threatened. Rookie Demetrius Williams, who is the Ravens' most explosive receiver after the catch, could be ready to start next season, which would push Mason to being the No. 3 receiver.

Why role could stay same: Mason might not be a deep threat, but he has the best hands on the team. If he starts, he's a lock for 60-plus catches.

Cornerback Samari Rolle

Why role could change: After being the team's best cover corner in training camp, he quickly lost his confidence in the regular season. When teams wanted to go deep, quarterbacks targeted Rolle. He might best be suited to play nickel back at this point of his career.

Why role could stay same: Who would replace Rolle? Backups Ronnie Prude and Evan Oglesby are still too inexperienced, and it would be too expensive to sign another big-name cornerback in free agency. The Ravens would only start a rookie cornerback if they drafted him in the first two rounds.

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