When the Ravens' first free-agent addition, Trevor Pryce, takes his flight from Denver to Baltimore today, he will have a familiar face sitting beside him - running back Mike Anderson.
The Ravens agreed in principle last night on a four-year deal with Anderson, who expects to take over for Jamal Lewis as the team's starting running back. The total worth of the deal is believed to be $8 million with a $2 million signing bonus.Anderson, 32, gained 1,014 yards rushing and rushed for 12 touchdowns last season for the Denver Broncos. By locking up a veteran, the Ravens now can draft a running back without the pressure of immediately starting a rookie.
Lewis' agent, Mitch Frankel, had been negotiating with the Ravens yesterday and indicated the sides weren't "that far apart." Frankel was still expecting a call back from the Ravens last night when told of Anderson's deal with the team.
Lewis said last night that he had been taking a serious look at returning to the Ravens. The franchise's all-time leading rusher, Lewis is scheduled to visit the Broncos today but didn't rule out the Ravens even with Anderson there.
"I don't know," Lewis said of the Ravens' situation. "We'll have to take a look and see."
Anderson beat Lewis for the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2000, when he gained 1,487 yards and scored 15 touchdowns. Anderson's numbers declined from 2001 to 2003, when he averaged 440 yards. He was sidelined for the entire 2004 season because of a groin injury.
According to his agent, Anderson doesn't have the wear and tear of other veteran running backs.
"Mike might be 32 years old but he feels like he's 27 because he spent four years in the Marines," Schaffer said. "He believes he still has four solid years left."
Besides the addition of Anderson, defense was the theme of the Ravens' second day in free agency. The Ravens reached agreements with linebacker Bart Scott and defensive tackle Justin Bannan.
After losing punter Dave Zastudil and nose tackle Ted Washington to the free-spending Cleveland Browns, the Ravens were able to keep Scott from them with a three-year, $13.5 million contract (including a $6.5 million signing bonus) and a huge amount of loyalty on his part.
Considered one of the top sleepers in free agency, Scott stayed with the Ravens despite a more lucrative offer on the table from the Browns, a five-year, $25 million contract that averaged $500,000 more a year than the Ravens' deal.
"Money wasn't a determining factor for me," Scott said. "You got to be happy and be comfortable. I feel like I'm in a great situation to succeed. At the end of the day, money can't buy that."
Ravens officials were feverishly negotiating with Scott's agent while Browns executives were courting him for a second straight day. Scott, in fact, agreed to his deal while inside Cleveland's training facility.
"Fortunately I left before they kicked me out," Scott said just moments after leaving. "I guess I have good timing."
Scott, 25, had been a valued special teams player for the first three years of his career before starting for the first time last season as a replacement for the injured Ray Lewis. He finished second on the Ravens in tackles.
"All along, Baltimore is the place where I wanted to be," Scott said. "It took a trip to Cleveland to get me there but I didn't care how I got back there."
While the Ravens' pursuit of Scott was expected, their run at Bannan was not.
Bannan, 26, had been a backup to Sam Adams with the Bills but started seven of the final eight games last season when Adams was benched. In 55 career games with the Bills, Bannan had 78 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks.