The Ravens are involved in contract negotiations with Jonathan Ogden that, according to both sides, would allow the Pro Bowl offensive tackle to end his career in Baltimore and provide the team future salary cap room to re-sign players.
Both general manager Ozzie Newsome and Ogden, entering his ninth season, confirmed yesterday that they are in negotiations, even though neither side had a timetable for reaching an agreement.
Ogden has three years left on the six-year, $44 million contract (with a $16 million signing bonus) he signed before the 2000 season, which made him the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL. Under current terms, he is expected to make $4.15 million this season, $7.2 million in 2005 and $8.75 million in 2006.
Ogden was the Ravens' first draft pick ever and the No. 4 overall selection in 1996, the year the Ravens began playing in Baltimore after moving from Cleveland. He anticipates playing another three or four years.
"The good thing is the relationship I've had with Ravens," said Ogden. "Sure, they've paid me well, but I've also felt like I gave them something on the field. Of the players drafted in the top five of my class, I'm the only one still with the same team. Everyone else is somewhere else. Either there was something wrong with their play, or there was a contract dispute. But at the end of the day, both the Ravens and I have been happy."
"Definitely, there are fewer years in front of me, and this would pretty much allow me to finish my career as a Raven," said Ogden.
Ogden, 6 feet 9 and 360 pounds, has had a Hall of Fame career. In eight seasons, he has been named to the AFC Pro Bowl squad seven straight times. The only year he missed was as a rookie when the Ravens switched the All-American tackle from UCLA to left guard.
Ogden is one of the most dominant offensive linemen in the game, and among the best ever because of his rare combination of strength, speed, agility and technical skills.
"As you move through this cap, there are certain people that you isolate as you go forward," said Ravens coach Brian Billick. "This is something we're very confident that we can move around and get done. We've done this before. J.O. knows he is going to finish here and we know he's going to finish here."
"I can't imagine you finding anybody in the league that wouldn't list J.O. as the No. 1 offensive lineman in the league," said Billick. "He's the first name that comes out of people's mouths."
Ogden said he expects a new contract will continue to make him the league's highest-paid offensive lineman. The two biggest deals signed by tackles this offseason were by Chicago's John Tait (six years, $33 million with a $14 million signing bonus) and Green Bay's Chad Clifton (six years, $32.3 million with a $10 million signing bonus).
Ogden's agent, Marvin Demoff, could not be reached for comment yesterday. Ogden said he wasn't aware of any specifics yet, but was confident an agreement would be reached.
"They are talking. I don't know the exact parameters, but the original deal I signed four or five years ago was only meant to be a four-year extension," said Ogden. "I'm not going to worry about this. I have an agent who did one [great] job for me on my first contract, and did another great job for me on the second.
"If the Ravens want to get something done now, then we'll get it done," said Ogden. "I'm not the type to worry about it. I just want to go out, play, and hopefully something will be worked about between my agent and the organization. An agreement would be good for both sides because it almost guarantees me finishing my career here, and it gives them some salary cap room in the future."
According to a source in the Ravens' front office, the team would like to have Ogden signed before it begins negotiations with other players. The coming season and offseason will be key for the team because cornerback Gary Baxter, guard Casey Rabach, linebacker Ed Hartwell, fullback Alan Ricard and receiver Travis Taylor are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents.
There has been speculation that star linebacker Ray Lewis would want a contract extension before the start of next season, and now it seems almost certain he will approach team officials if Ogden signs a new deal.
Asked about Lewis and the impact Ogden's deal would have on others, Newsome would only say: "The contracts being done now will have impact on contracts of the future."