At a time when Ravens fans seem resigned to losing two of their best young starters to free agency, the agent for linebacker Bart Scott and center Jason Brown has suggested otherwise.
Harold Lewis, who represents both players, said yesterday that he is optimistic either Scott or Brown will re-sign with the Ravens before free agency begins Friday.
"My gut feeling is one of the two is going to hit free agency and the other one will probably sign," Lewis said. "That's just my gut."
Lewis wouldn't hint whether it would be Scott or Brown returning - "I don't know which one it is," he said - but it appears the Ravens have a better shot at keeping Scott off the free-agent market.
With linebacker Ray Lewis poised to become a free agent, the Ravens might make a concerted effort to keep Scott, the team's second-leading tackler each of the past four seasons.
The Ravens could have a tougher time in talks with Brown, a center who could command higher money as a guard in free agency.
Harold Lewis and the Ravens met twice last week at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, and Lewis acknowledged progress was made in negotiations.
But no deal is expected to be reached until later in the week.
"I don't see both of them getting out there [in free agency]. I can see one getting out there," Harold Lewis said of Scott and Brown. "There's only so much that the Ravens can do. If they can do them both, that will put a smile on everybody's face. That's the goal here. We've said that over and over again."
The Ravens are $19.4 million under the salary cap, according to Sports Illustrated's Web site. Four starters for the Ravens (Ray Lewis, Scott, Brown and safety Jim Leonhard) and kicker Matt Stover are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in three days.
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said Saturday that he was optimistic "at this point" about retaining Scott and Brown.
"We always feel like we're willing to pay more for our players than other people will, but over the past few years, we have lost players because they've had the opportunity to help their families by making a lot of money" elsewhere, Newsome said.
Scott, 28, has developed into one of the cogs of the Ravens' defense after joining the team as an undrafted rookie in 2002.
He has started 16 games for three straight seasons and finished second in tackles last season with 104. His presence inside has been a big reason the Ravens haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 35 games, the NFL's longest current streak.
Brown, 25, found his niche in his first season as the Ravens' starting center in 2008. The 2005 fourth-round pick played a major role in the team-record 20 rushing touchdowns and the second-fewest sacks allowed in team history (33).
"A lot of players are all about [what team] can get me the most," Harold Lewis said. "I'm pretty blessed in having clients who aren't about who is the highest. It's who is the best fit.
"We're going to fight for every nickel and dime we possibly can. But the most important thing is to address what the players' wants are and their families' wants are."
The Ravens appear to have contingency plans if they lose Scott and Brown.
To fill Scott's void, the team could promote either rookie Tavares Gooden or veteran Brendon Ayanbadejo to starting inside linebacker.
At Brown's spot, the Ravens have the option of shifting Chris Chester or Marshal Yanda to center and starting the other at right guard.
But it seems the Ravens and Harold Lewis made headway in talks last week.
"We've made a lot of progress, there's no doubt about it," Lewis said. "We're not there yet, but we still got a few days to get there."
The Ravens have already made two major moves this offseason, cutting cornerback Chris McAlister and using the franchise tag on linebacker Terrell Suggs.
the free 13
The Ravens who are scheduled to become free agents Friday:
QB Kyle Boller *CB Chris McAlister
QB Todd Bouman FB Lorenzo Neal
C Jason Brown LB Bart Scott
WR Terrance Copper OT Chad Slaughter
CB Corey Ivy K Matt Stover
S Jim Leonhard TE Daniel Wilcox
LB Ray Lewis
* Already a free agent after being cut.
The position of Ravens free agent Jason Brown was stated incorrectly in the Page 1 news summary of some of yesterday's editions. He is an offensive lineman.The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.