Brown seeks guard's paycheck

Where Jason Brown ends up in free agency could be determined by where he lines up on the field.

It is believed the Ravens want to pay Brown as a center while the versatile offensive lineman is seeking to be paid as a guard.


The difference in positions could be $2 million per season, which might push Brown to test the free-agent market Friday. It has been heavily rumored the Miami Dolphins are interested in Brown if he becomes available.

"We believe Jason Brown is a great offensive lineman," said Harold Lewis, Brown's agent, who declined to talk specifically about the negotiations. "Whether he plays center for the Ravens or guard for another team in the NFL, he's an offensive lineman and he's going to be paid as an offensive lineman. I don't think he has to be categorized.


"When you have that versatility, you should get rewarded for it, and not which is the lower of the two."

Lewis, also the agent for linebacker Bart Scott, said Monday that a deal for one of his players could get done before free agency begins. Indications from a source with knowledge of the negotiations said yesterday that the Ravens and Scott are closing in on a deal that could be done this week.

When asked last night whether he were close to a deal with Scott, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said: "I wouldn't say that. Nothing is imminent. We've made progress on several fronts, and we're moving in the right direction."

Brown, a 2005 fourth-round pick, moved into the starting lineup in 2006 when he replaced injured Edwin Mulitalo. He started 28 straight games at guard, forming a strong left side with Pro Bowl tackle Jonathan Ogden.

When the Ravens shuffled their offensive line last season, Brown shifted to center, where he played all 16 games. The team envisions Brown as its long-term center and is unlikely to pay him as a guard because it has three starter-quality ones on the roster (Ben Grubbs, Marshal Yanda and Chris Chester).

But if Brown reaches free agency, other teams could see him more as a guard than a center. Besides the Dolphins, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Washington Redskins are expected to be interested.

When asked about Brown at the NFL combine last weekend, Newsome talked about the possibility of losing players in free agency.

"My philosophy has always been right player, right price," Newsome said. "We do a good job of putting a value on what we think that player is worth for us. I always tell the players ... if there is a chance for them to go out and help their families, then go do it."


Brown, 25, is generally considered the top offensive lineman headed to free agency.

"I can tell you right now that I'm confident that there will be teams that will be looking at Jason as a guard and there will be teams that will be looking at him as a center," Lewis said.

The less lucrative position is center.

The highest-paid center in the NFL is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Jeff Faine, whose contract pays $6.25 million per season. He received a $12 million signing bonus last season on a contract that runs through 2013.

The Chicago Bears' Olin Kreutz and Dallas Cowboys' Andre Gurode, both of whom signed their deals in 2007, are the next two highest-paid centers. Kreutz's deal averages $5.8 million a season, and Gurode's contract averages $5 million.

The price goes up for guards in free agency.


Last season, Alan Faneca signed a four-year contract with the New York Jets that averages $8 million per season.

Two years ago, a handful of guards (Eric Steinbach, Derrick Dockery, Leonard Davis and Kris Dielman) received deals worth about $7 million a season. Of this group, only Dielman has appeared in multiple Pro Bowls.

The difference in pay is surprising, because centers generally have more responsibilities than guards. Centers make the calls for the line and need to help out on both sides.

"[Center is] the quarterback of the offensive line," Lewis said. "I think there should be a premium on that."

Sun columnist Mike Preston contributed to this article.