Surveying the market

The Baltimore Sun

A season ago, it wasn't until a week into free agency that the Ravens signed their first player (special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo).

Although the pace likely won't be as slow this year, the Ravens seem to be stressing patience again when looking to sign free agents other than their own.

"We will be watching the market and watching who is signing, upgrading our board as time goes," general manager Ozzie Newsome said.

Though four starters (linebackers Ray Lewis and Bart Scott, center Jason Brown and safety Jim Leonhard) could become free agents tomorrow, the Ravens don't have any pressing needs in free agency.

The Ravens could use a deep threat at wide receiver. They could add an additional veteran cornerback into the mix of Fabian Washington, Samari Rolle and Frank Walker. They could acquire depth at tight end behind Todd Heap. And they could pursue a kicker if Matt Stover goes elsewhere.

Newsome indicated it was hard to gauge the strength of this year's free-agent market at this point.

"I don't know who is going to make it to free agency," he said. "There's going to be a lot of deals signed over the next 24, 48 hours."

A look at the free agents from other teams at the Ravens' positions of need:

Wide receivers

1. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Cincinnati (right): : He'll catch tons of passes, but he has gained only 10 yards a reception the past two seasons. The Ravens don't need another possession receiver.

2. Laveranues Coles, N.Y. Jets: : Effectively cut yesterday after the sides couldn't reach a long-term deal, Coles had 70 catches for 850 yards and seven touchdowns last season. He hasn't ruled out returning to the Jets, but he might find some demand in free agency.

3. Nate Washington, Pittsburgh: : The Steelers' No. 3 wide-out is intriguing because he can stretch the field and has outstanding leaping ability. The problem is consistency. Washington will make the highlight catch and drop the routine pass.

4. Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis: : A new setting could invigorate the 36-year-old, who seems to be fading fast. Harrison missed 11 games in 2007 because of injuries and caught 60 passes last season after offseason knee surgery.

5. Devery Henderson, New Orleans: : He's the sleeper of this free-agent receiver class. Despite not living up to expectations as a second-round pick, Henderson will draw interest from teams looking for a deep threat. He has gained more than 20 yards a catch the past three seasons.

Others: : Bryant Johnson, San Francisco; Michael Clayton, Tampa Bay; Ashley Lelie, Oakland; Brandon Jones, Tennessee; Ronald Curry, Oakland; Shaun McDonald, Detroit

Cornerbacks

1. Leigh Bodden, Detroit (right): : He's an all-around defender who is aggressive in coverage and physical against the run. But he probably won't be in the Ravens' price range.

2. Bryant McFadden, Pittsburgh: : The Steelers hope to bring back McFadden, their No. 2 cornerback who excels in cover-2. His stock is higher because this is a mediocre cornerback class.

3. Jabari Greer, Buffalo: : He's likely to leave Buffalo after the emergence of first-round pick Leodis McKelvin. Greer, who could be seeking a contract worth $7 million a season, returned both of his interceptions for touchdowns last season.

4. Domonique Foxworth, Atlanta: : The former Western Tech and Maryland standout had his best NFL season last year, which was also his contract year. He lacks ideal size and strength, but he makes up for it with quickness.

5. Ronald Bartell, St. Louis: : He was one of the few pleasant surprises on the Rams' struggling defense. In his past five games, Bartell intercepted three passes, forced two fumbles and broke up nine throws.

Others: : Phillip Buchanon, Tampa Bay; Dre' Bly, Denver; Patrick Surtain, Kansas City; DeAngelo Hall, Washington; Andre' Goodman, Miami; Reynaldo Hill, Tennessee

Tight ends

1. Jim Kleinsasser, Minnesota (left): : He's considered the best blocking tight end in the NFL.

2. Chris Baker, N.Y. Jets: : He seems to be a No. 2 tight end after his numbers plummeted last season to 21 catches for 194 yards and no touchdowns.

3. L.J. Smith, Philadelphia: : He gained a career-worst 8.1 yards a catch last season.

4. Justin Peelle, Falcons: : The journeyman has developed into a solid all-around contributor.

5. Jerramy Stevens, Tampa Bay: : The most talented player in this group, but off-the-field issues will concern many teams.

Others: : Billy Bajema, San Francisco; Tony Curtis, Dallas; Derek Schouman, Buffalo; Nate Jackson, Denver

Kickers

1. Jay Feely, N.Y. Jets (right): : In his past four seasons, he was 103-for-120 on field-goal attempts (85.8 percent), including 6-for-9 from beyond 50 yards.

2. John Carney, N.Y. Giants: : Two misses in the playoffs should signal his exit. But he was 35-for-38 (92.1 percent) in the regular season.

3. Mike Nugent, N.Y. Jets: : The best option on the market in terms of youth and upside.

4. Mike Vanderjagt, out of NFL: : The most accurate kicker in NFL history hasn't played in the NFL since 2006.

5. Martin Gramatica, New Orleans: : The journeyman hasn't attempted more than 10 field goals in a season since 2004.

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