General manager Ozzie Newsome said the Ravens are continuing negotiations with Ray Lewis but he doesn't know whether the team can re-sign the Pro Bowl linebacker before the start of free agency tomorrow.
"I can't answer that question," Newsome said yesterday. "We're making progress. We're continuing to talk."
It is believed Lewis, an original Raven who was drafted in the first round in 1996 along with offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, wants to test the free-agent market to gauge his worth. This would mark the first time in his 13-year career that he would become a free agent.
Lewis, 33, has been generally ranked among the top five free agents available. He is coming off a season in which he earned his 10th Pro Bowl berth. He had 117 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks and three interceptions in starting all 16 regular-season games.
Lewis' agent did not return a call yesterday.
During the past year, the Ravens have repeatedly talked about their intention to keep Lewis. But since the Ravens' season ended with a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC championship game, Lewis has talked about playing for the Dallas Cowboys or New York Jets.
Besides Lewis, the Ravens are still working on a deal for linebacker Bart Scott. There have been indications the Ravens have made more headway in talks with Scott than with Lewis.
But the Ravens haven't ruled out keeping both linebackers. Even if the Ravens reach a deal with Scott, Newsome said, it doesn't preclude the return of Lewis.
"The one doesn't have an effect on the other," Newsome said.
The Jets, who are expected to show interest in Lewis and Scott, freed up $6 million in salary cap room when they released wide receiver Laveranues Coles yesterday.
It has been estimated the Ravens are $19.4 million under the salary cap.
A look at top free agents the Ravens might consider pursuing PG 5