Seahawks defensive end Cory Redding carries a fumble recovery… (AP photo )
ORLANDO, Fla. — - The Ravens hope they found their new starting defensive end as they signed free agent Cory Redding to a two-year, $6 million deal Monday.
Redding, 29, who has played for the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks, was once considered the top inside pass rusher in the NFL. But questions about a knee injury and a drop-off in production caused him to sit for two weeks on the free-agent market.
Reaching a deal with Redding means the Ravens don't have any holes remaining in their starting lineup, making it easier for them to select the best player available with the 25th overall pick in the draft.
Joining the Ravens and the NFL's third-ranked defense could re-energize Redding's career.
"I think he's really excited to be a Raven," coach John Harbaugh said at the NFL owners meetings. "When you talk about how much he admires our defensive style and the way our guys play - kind of being in the mix with all of our guys on defense - Ray [Lewis], Ed [Reed], Haloti [Ngata], [ Terrell] Suggs - he thinks it's going to give him a chance to blossom as a player. I would agree with him."
The addition of Redding comes four days after last year's starting defensive end, Dwan Edwards, signed with the Buffalo Bills.
The Ravens never made a counteroffer to keep Edwards from going to the Bills because they were set to pursue Redding. Ravens officials believe the 6-foot-4, 292-pound Redding is an upgrade over Edwards because he has more versatility and brings more of a pass-rush presence.
"This will sound a little like a broken record, but Cory is a guy who plays like a Raven," general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. "He hustles, he plays with intelligence, and he can play multiple positions like many of our defensive players. He's been a starter at both inside tackle and defensive end. And I am sure our coaches will use him in both positions."
A third-round pick by the Lions in 2003, Redding recorded a career-best eight sacks in 2006 with Detroit, establishing himself as a force inside. He then signed a seven-year, $49 million contract (including $16 million guaranteed), which made him the highest-paid defensive tackle in the NFL at that point.
But he had a total of only six sacks the past three seasons. Injuries to his knee and groin ended his 2008 season. Last year, the Seattle Seahawks acquired Redding and a fifth-round draft pick in exchange for linebacker Julian Peterson.
With the Seahawks, Redding had 20 tackles and two sacks as part of a rotation in which he played about 30 snaps a game. The Ravens could use him as an end in their base defense and as an inside pass rusher on third downs.
"We're excited about Cory," Harbaugh said. "He fits us. He plays with a high motor. He plays with great energy. He's a sideline-to-sideline type of a player."
The Ravens could use Redding in a rotation with Trevor Pryce, who was replaced by Edwards in the starting lineup last year. It's still uncertain what the Ravens plan to do with Pryce, who is scheduled to make $4.5 million this season.
Redding was rated the 15th-best defensive tackle available in free agency by scout.com.
"We watched him on tape. We loved him from the get-go," Harbaugh said. "Greg [Mattison, defensive coordinator] loved him. [Defensive line coach] Clarence Brooks really loved him."
One of the reasons the Ravens chose Redding over Edwards could have been health. According to Edwards, the Ravens wanted him to have another neck surgery, which he was reluctant to do.
Harbaugh declined to comment on this specifically, saying: "We're always going to put players' safety absolutely first. We're never going to let a guy be in a position where he's going to be at risk."
Note: The Ravens didn't receive a compensatory pick for the 2010 draft, the NFL announced Monday. Compensatory picks are based on the free agents lost and gained in the previous offseason. In 2009, the Ravens lost two high-priced free agents in linebacker Bart Scott and center Jason Brown. The Ravens signed cornerback Domonique Foxworth and center Matt Birk. Since 1994, the Ravens have had the most compensatory picks (29) of any NFL team.