The Baltimore Ravens have altered their previous stance on trying to hold onto Pro Bowl offensive…
"Matt feels great," agent Joe Linta told the Carroll County Times at 4 p.m. Saturday. "The Ravens want him back. We're going to try to work something out with the Ravens before free agency starts."
Birk is an unrestricted free agent, so the Ravens will have to negotiate a contract. That's not expected to be a problem. The Ravens are still expected to bolster the center position through free agency or the NFL draft.
"Before we line up and play in 2012, there will be another center on this football team in some capacity, free agency, draft or whatever," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. Birk has dealt with hip, knee and neck problems, but the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year is healthy now. He has started 96 consecutive games. "We want to have him back if he wants to come back," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He got through the year healthy and we think he can still play. We need a center and he's a great guy. We want him back." The Harvard graduate may undergo relatively minor leg surgery this offseason.
"Matt Birk is looking at getting his varicose veins fixed," Harbaugh said. "His legs might be looking a lot better if and when he comes back." QUICK HITS: The Ravens met with Alabama inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower, who also met with the Pittsburgh Steelers, South Carolina outside linebacker Melvin Ingram, LSU wide receiver Rueben Randle and Temple running back Bernard Pierce. Hightower said he idolizes Ravens linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, adding that playing with them "would be a dream come true."
Ravens have 'productive' meeting with Flacco's agent
INDIANAPOLIS – The Baltimore Ravens and representatives for quarterback Joe Flacco got off to an encouraging start in contract discussions that launched Saturday at the NFL scouting combine, according to his agent. Negotiations are scheduled to continue with the Flacco camp pursuing a $15 million annual average on a multi-year deal.
"I think it was very productive," agent Joe Linta told the Carroll County Times. "It's very clear that Joe is an important part of the Ravens team. We'll keep working away. I'm optimistic that we can work something out."
This marks the beginning of what shapes up as a lengthy negotiation for Flacco, who's under contract through the 2012 season. He's due a $6.76 million base salary in 2012 after triggering an escalator clause in his original rookie contract.
Team officials have expressed optimism that a deal can be brokered.
"Sometimes in negotiations, it can be done in two days or it can take 12 months," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "I think there is a willingness with Joe Linta and Joe Flacco's part, and Steve and the organization to try and get the deal done. We're going to push toward that." Flacco has a 44-20 record as a starter in the regular season, winning five playoff games since being drafted in the first round out of Delaware. He's been to the AFC championship game twice, losing both times. He came within a dropped Lee Evans touchdown pass of making it to the Super Bowl, losing in the AFC title game to the New England Patriots.
Flacco passed for 306 yards and two touchdowns in that game, outplaying Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. For his career, he's the Ravens' all-time leading passer with 13,816 yards and 80 touchdowns for an 86.0 quarterback rating. "Both John Harbaugh and Ozzie fully believe in Joe Flacco and they're right to do so," former Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "They know what it is to not have a quarterback. They've got one. The question you have to ask is, 'If not Joe Flacco, then who, then what?' So, the money they're going to have to spend on him, I think Joe has proven himself.
"Joe is not going to really be able to take over that team, the whole mentality of it until Ray moves on. That's not Ray's fault, but he's the face of that team. Everybody is looking for more out of Joe that way. It's not going to happen until Ray leaves. When it does, I think you'll see it out of Joe."
Billick thinks Lewis, Reed will know when to retire
–Brian Billick doesn't think tht the Baltimore Ravens will ever have to shove middle linebacker Ray Lewis and free safety Ed Reed out the door one day.
The former Baltimore Ravens coach thinks both Pro Bowl defenders will know when it's time to walk away. Both Lewis and Reed have declared they intend to return for next season. Reed has played through a lot of pain in recent years, including hip, neck and shoulder problems. "It's eventually going to happen for everyone," Billick said. "Ed Reed is a little bit different because of the injuries. Ed, as you know, is very in tune to that. The demands on his body and the hits that he takes, at some point. Ed will be prudent that way. It may take the entire offseason.
"When we had Jonathan Ogden, Jonathan could have continued to play but Jonathan knew because the toe injury at the end, ‘You know what? I'm not going to do what I know how I have to do in the offseason to come back and play. Yeah, I'm going to keep playing but I know what that offseason has to be.'"
Lewis' longevity has been impressive. The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year is entering his 17th season. He missed four games last season with a toe injury.
"Ray, gosh, it amazes me," Billick said. "I thought a couple of years ago he was a bit of a liability on third down and he seemed to bounce back in only the way Ray Lewis can, and needed to be on the field every snap. Amazing. Even for Ray Lewis, at some point..
"Ray has such a high expectation for himself and, again, it's hard for a player sometimes to truly recognize where are you. I've had a number of my former players, typically the smart ones, that will call outside sources and say, ‘Coach, look at my film, tell me if it's time for me to go.' It's a tough question." Billick won the Ravens' lone Super Bowl title following the 2000 NFL season.
He likes what he sees from Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who replaced Billick after he was fired after going 5-11 during the 2007 season. Harbaugh has a 44-20 record in the regular season and is the lone NFL coach to win at least one playoff game for the past four seasons, reaching the AFC championship game twice.
"John has been brilliant," Billick said. "Part of it is because he came into a team that was, I don't want to sound self-serving, but was pretty good, and a good, sound organization. It's the same reason whether it be a Bill Belichick or now Tom Coughlin, a Mike McCarthy.
"Once you have a certain level of success, it's kind of assumed so you don't give them credit for continuing to have that success. But John's been brilliant in what he has done in Baltimore and has them on the cusp. They're going to be there again next year."
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