A bidding war is expected to unfold between the Cleveland Browns and the Indianapolis Colts for Ravens outside linebacker Paul Kruger, according to league sources with knowledge of the situation.
The Browns have been particularly aggressive in expressing strong interest in Kruger, one of the top free agent pass rushers along with Detroit Lions defensive end Cliff Avril.
Coached by former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, the Colts are seeking a replacement for Dwight Freeney.
Kruger is well beyond the Ravens' financial constraints because of a tight salary cap. He won't be back with the Super Bowl champions following a breakthrough season. The former second-round draft pick from Utah recorded a career-high nine sacks last season with another 4 1/2 sacks in the playoffs, including two of elusive San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the Super Bowl.
One source predicted that Kruger could command anywhere from $10 million to $12 million annually.
Besides Kruger, Ravens free agent starting inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe has also drawn heavy interest from several teams. The Browns are among those suitors.
The Ravens are still expected to make a significant offer to Ellerbe prior to the start of the free agent signing period Tuesday afternoon, but have yet to do so.
Ellerbe has had some durability issues, including thumb, ankle, back and foot issues last season while registering a career-high 89 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks. He went undrafted after dealing with off-field problems at Georgia, but is regarded as more mature now. He didn't need to undergo any offseason surgical procedures.
Ellerbe is expected to command at least $25 million to $30 million, and perhaps even more, as the best free agent inside linebacker available.
Meanwhile, cornerback Cary Williams has been fielding solid interest from NFL teams.
Williams isn't expected to return to the Ravens after a career-high 75 tackles and four interceptions while assuming the role of guarding opponents' top receivers once cornerback Lardarius Webb tore his anterior cruciate ligament against the Dallas Cowboys.
"We're getting some phone calls, but no negotiating," said Harold Lewis, Williams' agent. "Teams are calling, which is good news. When those teams get really hungry by Tuesday when things start happening, that's when you'll get the real number. Teams don't want to throw out numbers right now and get used by agents who would shop it around to other teams."
Cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers as they picked up $5.1 million against the salary cap, five-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker James Harrison is interested in joining the Ravens, according to his agent.
It's unclear if the Ravens, who once briefly employed Harrison before he joined the Steelers, would have mutual interest because of Harrison's age. The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year dipped to six sacks last season and turns 35 in two months.
"Baltimore would be a great fit for James," agent Bill Parise said. "They're a contender and a class organization, so James would definitely be interested. I would think they would have a need with the market for Kruger."