Tag for J. Lewis not set, team says Newsome: Free agency is a possibility By Jamison Hensley Sun reporter Originally published February 8, 2006 Although it's long been expected the Ravens will use the franchise tag on Jamal Lewis, general manager Ozzie Newsome suggested yesterday that is not a certainty.
The Ravens have 15 days before an NFL-mandated deadline that will force them to either place the tag on their all-time leading rusher or let him become an unrestricted free agent.
If the Ravens use the tag on Lewis, they can stop him from becoming a free agent with a one-year tender worth $6 million. If they decide against it, Lewis would enter a loaded running back market, which is expected to include Seattle's Shaun Alexander, Indianapolis' Edgerrin James and Carolina's DeShaun Foster.
Asked if a decision has been made on Lewis, Newsome said, "Not really."
Asked if the Ravens would let Lewis become a free agent, Newsome said, "It could possibly be that."
Lewis' agent, Mitch Frankel, said he has talked recently with the Ravens but admitted he doesn't know which way they are leaning.
"I have no idea," Frankel said. "I have no indication one way or another. I won't know for another couple more weeks."
Lewis gained a career-worst 906 yards rushing last season after a turbulent offseason. The former NFL Offensive Player of the Year had ankle surgery last February and then spent four months in federal prison after accepting a plea bargain on federal drug conspiracy charges.
Even if they put the franchise tag on Lewis, it doesn't necessarily mean he will remain with the Ravens. There has been speculation that the Ravens would use the tag on Lewis and trade him to the Minnesota Vikings for disgruntled quarterback Daunte Culpepper.
Others have projected the Ravens to take Southern California running back LenDale White with the 13th overall pick in the draft, which would remove the need for keeping Lewis.
It appears the only guarantee is Lewis won't be receiving a new long-term deal from the Ravens before free agency begins March 3.
Lewis earned $3.5 million in the last year of his original six-year, $35.5 million contract he signed in July 2000 when he was the team's top draft pick and the No. 5 selection overall.
"We've had conversations but no negotiations," Frankel said.
Meanwhile, the Ravens have completed their coaching staff overhaul with the hiring of Tony Nathan (running backs) and Greg Roman (assistant offensive line), a league source said. The moves will officially be announced by the team this week.
Nathan, the fourth all-time leading rusher in Miami Dolphins history, has been the running backs coach at Florida International University for the past three seasons.
He had coached running backs for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1996 to 2001, when he guided Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott to Pro Bowls. Nathan was a teammate of Newsome's at the University of Alabama.
Roman had been the quarterbacks coach of the Houston Texans for the past two seasons. He previously had been the tight ends coach for the Texans (2002 and 2003) after serving one year as the offensive-line coach with the Carolina Panthers.
I imagine Minnesota wouldn't do this straight up, but purely from the perspective of fantasy potential, if Culpepper goes to Baltimore, I'm praying people sleep on Mason, he'd be huge like 2-3 years ago.
I don't like it either...Minnesota has plenty of RB's that can get the job done. They run for plenty of yards using several backs, so I don't know if they need to change that.
The problem is now one of their WR's has to step up and take the responsibility of being "the guy" to replace Moss. I doubt anyone will full replace him, but K. Robinson could be a good deep threat for Culpepper's bombs, and Burleson should be good for possession stuff. Add in M. Robinson as a RZ target and you have a decent team. I really don't know why they totally stunk last year with Culpepper...maybe he just had a bad year.
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I think it wouldn't be a good deal for the Vikes at all. I think they'd be looking to draft an RB not get a problem that couldn't seem to grasp 3 yards per carry last year(or atleast it felt like that fantasy wise). I think the Vikes would be better off keeping Cpep or getting more out of it...
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