By Aaron Wilson, The Baltimore Sun
8:22 PM EDT, March 19, 2013
The reunion between former Dallas Cowboys defensive linemen Marcus Spears and Chris Canty was prompted by the Ravens' need for an influx of size and toughness at the line of scrimmage.
The veteran defensive linemen entered the league together as rookies in Dallas in 2005, with Canty signing with the New York Giants five years ago.
Now, they're going to work in tandem again after Spears signed a two-year, $3.55 million maximum value deal with the Ravens and Canty signed a three-year, $8 million deal. Besides Canty (6-foot-7, 317 pounds) and Spears (6-4, 315 pounds) providing big bodies and positional flexibility to the Super Bowl champions' front seven, their chemistry could pay dividends.
"It's always good to have some recall with guys that you've played with, and also are friends with, so you're not really coming in alone," Spears said during a Tuesday conference call. "You have somebody that knows you. You have somebody that knows how you work. We'll bounce things off of each other.
"We're both going into our ninth year, so we've become, hopefully, better players. Having Chris there, it's a comfort level. Just to be in that role as one of the guys that can come in and try to contribute immediately, it gives me a great sense of where I am with the team."
A fourth-round draft pick from Virginia, Canty has 272 career tackles and 19 sacks. Spears, a first-round pick from LSU, has recorded 226 tackles and 10 sacks with three forced fumbles.
The Ravens are banking on their stout presence solidifying a run defense that ranked 20th in the NFL last season, surrendering 122.8 rushing yards per game.
"Everybody speaks highly of them, so I think it's a good fit for the Ravens," Ravens coach John Harbaugh at the NFL meetings in Phoenix. "Those are the kind of people we like to bring into our locker room, into our team. Good people, hard-working guys, tough guys, rough, tough players that play the game the right way. We're excited to have them and bolster our defense.
"They've both very excellent run-stoppers, especially against the zone-stretch scheme, which seems to be en vogue right now. We're going to have to play it a lot more in our conference. Those guys play that really well. They both bring a pass-rush element. They're both big, strong guys that play hard and work hard."
Spears chose the Ravens after fielding inquiries from the New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars.
He quickly became convinced to join the Ravens after receiving a contract that included a $600,000 signing bonus, base salaries of $900,000 and $1.25 million with an additional $800,000 in incentive clauses that can be triggered through playing time and sack totals.
"To be honest with you, it didn't take me any time once I heard Baltimore wanted to sign me," Spears said. "That was it. I wanted to try to get it done with the Ravens and we were able to, and I'm happy about it.There's just an aura around the whole organization.
"Everybody has a quiet confidence about what they can get done. They go about their business. They work hard, they practice hard. The guys are close. They do things differently around here."
Spears is expected to join the rotation on the defensive line, saying he'll primarily line up at left defensive end, where he'll compete with Arthur Jones and Pernell McPhee as well as Canty. Spears could also play nose guard, if needed.
"I take a lot of pride in teams not running the football on the defense that I'm playing on," Spears said. "If you can't stop the run, you have a long season ahead of you as a football team.
"You have to be flexible, and I think that's what gives us a great chance to be good up front is that a lot of guys can play a lot of different positions. When you have that flexibility, I think it gives you an opportunity to play a bunch of guys and keep guys fresh."
Spears said he joined the Ravens for one reason: to earn a Super Bowl ring, an elusive pursuit for him when he was in Dallas, as the Cowboys perpetually disappointed ther rabid fan base.
"To be a part of that is a no-brainer for a guy like me, because we are all striving to try to get that hardware," he said. "Every guy from last year has it coming in the mail. Hopefully, we can reincarnate what happened last year and move it into this year and try to get that shiny thing put on my finger."
Wide receiver Anquan Boldin is scheduled to travel to San Francisco and take his physical Wednesday, the final requirement to complete his trade from the Ravens to the 49ers in exchange for a 2013 sixth-round draft pick.
Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.
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