Ravens weigh options as key losses become official

Reporter Aaron Wilson recaps the maneuvering the Ravens have done thus far in the offseason. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)

Wearing a blue polo shirt and a gray Detroit Lions hat, former Ravens defensive lineman Haloti Ngata spoke excitedly Wednesday about the "journey" he's about to take with his new NFL team.

At his introductory press conference in Denver, tight end Owen Daniels said he signed with the Broncos because they gave him the best chance to get an elusive Super Bowl ring. In Chicago, outside linebacker-defensive end Pernell McPhee discussed the impact former teammates Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil had on his career.


Day two of free agency brought more reminders of the Ravens' key offseason losses, which include wide receiver Torrey Smith, whose five-year, $40 million contract that includes $22 million guaranteed was made official by the San Francisco 49ers Wednesday. The Ravens, meanwhile, continued to weigh their free-agent options, exercising patience as they try to fill roster holes without an abundance of salary cap space.

According to league sources, the Ravens remain focused on trying to re-sign free agent running back Justin Forsett, the team's rushing and touchdown leader last season. However, beyond Ryan Mathews (Philadelphia Eagles) and Frank Gore (Indianapolis Colts) signing Wednesday, the free-agent running back market has been relatively slow-moving.


Forsett and the Ravens have maintained mutual interest in coming to a deal, but other teams, including the Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins, have inquired about the diminutive running back, as well.

The Ravens are also monitoring other positions of need: wide receiver, tight end, defensive line and defensive back. Several players who were released Wednesday could be good fits for a team that tends to prefer signing street free agents — those cut by other teams — rather than true unrestricted free agents, who could cost the Ravens compensatory picks.

Wide receiver Stevie Johnson, let go by the 49ers, and tight end Scott Chandler, released by the Buffalo Bills, are cheaper alternatives to Smith and Daniels. Defensive tackle Randy Starks, who was cut by the Miami Dolphins, would be a nice addition to a defensive line that has lost two starters (Ngata and Chris Canty) and a top inside pass-rushing threat (McPhee) in recent days.

Ngata, of course, is the most significant loss. He was traded to the Lions on Tuesday, along with a 2015 seventh-round pick, for a fourth- and fifth-round selection in the 2015 NFL draft. Ngata was picking his son up from school when he got the call from head coach John Harbaugh informing him his tenure with the Ravens was over.


"He said he just wanted to call me out of respect, that they're going to trade me," Ngata said. "This was about 20-to-30 minutes before it happened. I was very thankful that he was willing to do that."

Ngata, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, was traded after talks between him and the Ravens about a contract extension gained little traction. The Ravens didn't feel they could afford to keep him around under his current deal, which carried a $16 million cap hit.

"We just weren't close enough to what we thought I could get," Ngata said, later indicating he'd be interested in signing an extension with the Lions. "We just figured we'd just hold still until they do something and they ended up trading me."

With Detroit, Ngata reunites with two former Ravens' assistants: Lions head coach Jim Caldwell and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. Ngata, 31, will be asked to fill the void created when defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh signed a big free-agent deal with the Dolphins.

"Ndamukong Suh was a great player — well deserved contract that he got," Ngata said. "I don't see myself as Ndamukong Suh. I'm a different player. He's made Pro Bowls, I've made Pro Bowls. I'll play my game and hopefully I'll help my team win."

Like Ngata, McPhee, speaking at his news conference at Halas Hall in Chicago, voiced a goal of fitting in with the Bears, even offering to play cornerback if that's what head coach John Fox wanted.

"Chicago was the right place for me," McPhee said. "I'm going to put my trust in Coach Fox and our defensive coordinator [Vic Fangio] to find a plan and create a role for me to be successful like I was in Baltimore."

Also on day two of free agency:

• Ravens starting strong safety Darian Stewart visited the Broncos on Wednesday night, according to sources.

Stewart, who briefly was benched during the regular season, has also drawn interest from the New York Giants. A return to the Ravens has not been ruled out.

• Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor took a free agent visit to Buffalo. The Ravens remain interested in potentially bringing Taylor back, according to sources.

The dual-threat quarterback didn't throw a pass in a game this past season, the first time that's happened in his career. As the backup to durable starter Joe Flacco the past four years, Taylor has never started a game. His four-year, $2.155 million rookie contract expired after the 2014 season.

"I've been reliable. The coaches have confidence in me. It's just a fresh start," Taylor said at the end of the season. "I knew the reality was coming. I've had time to think about it and we'll see what's the plan moving forward."

• The Ravens re-signed reserve defensive back and core special teams contributor Anthony Levine to a two-year, $2.4 million contract, according to league sources. The deal includes $400,000 signing bonus and playtime incentives.

The Ravens didn't give Levine, a former undrafted free agent from Tennessee State, a restricted free agent tender. Levine played in every game last season and started three times. He finished with 23 tackles and four passes defended, plus six special teams tackles.

Levine drew interest from other NFL teams before deciding to remain with the Ravens.

• Former Ravens, Maryland and Poly wide receiver LaQuan Williams has been invited to the inaugural NFL veteran combine.

Williams will join former Ravens linebacker Brandon Copeland (Gilman) and safety Mana Silva as well as several others, including defensive end Jamaal Anderson, cornerback Aaron Berry and running backs Michael Bush, Mikel Leshoure and Felix Jones on March 22 at the Arizona Cardinals' practice facility. Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in NFL history, has also accepted an invitation to the combine.

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