Also includes items on Cowboys, Vikings, Patriots and Texans.

The Way We Hear It: ‘Hometown discount’ for Ravens LB Lewis a long shot

Owner Steve Bisciotti said the franchise tag is not in play as the Ravens try to bring back free-agent LB Ray Lewis, meaning the Ravens are likely to have to come to a multiyear agreement with the charismatic linebacker, who turns 34 in May but is coming off a very good 2008 season.

At the Ravens’ season-ending press conference, Bisciotti floated the idea of Lewis perhaps taking a “hometown discount,” as he put it, to stay in Baltimore and also give the Ravens a little more flexibility to sign free agents.

But a source close to the club tells PFW that Lewis is unlikely to be amenable to such a discount, considering this could be his last shot at a lucrative, multiyear contract.

Bisciotti acknowledged that Lewis could draw a huge offer on the open market, one that the Ravens may not be able to match, but he expressed hope the two sides could get a deal done.


NFL whispers

COWBOYS: The Cowboys had to be glad to hear that QB Tony Romo plans to be a better leader next season. The criticism that has come down on Romo, which some have said caused a lack of respect for offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, appears to be somewhat legitimate. But we hear Garrett was lax toward other players, as well, for not working hard enough, thereby appearing to give different players different sets of rules depending on who they were.

VIKINGS: We hear the Vikings might make finding a right offensive tackle a priority in free agency, with Ryan Cook possibly moving inside to battle with John Sullivan in case C Matt Birk is not re-signed. The player the Vikings might want the most is Panthers ORT Jordan Gross, but sources in Carolina suggest Gross might not be going anywhere. So, who would be the consolation prize? Mark Tauscher, in many ways the glue of the Packers’ offensive line, could be the player the Vikings target. It would give them a strong pass blocker while robbing a divisional rival of one of its starters, though Tauscher is not known as an elite run blocker.

PATRIOTS: We hear new Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers did not get along all that well with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick as New England’s special assistant/secondary coach last season.

TEXANS: New Texans defensive coordinator Frank Bush told PFW he liked what he saw from the Houston defense in many facets as last season started to come to a close. “They started to get on the same page,” said Bush, who was a senior defensive assistant to Gary Kubiak for two seasons before replacing defensive coordinator Richard Smith earlier this month. “We started to tackle guys better late in the season. They did a much better job of taking care of their assignments.” The Texans will continue to employ a 4-3 front next season; they have used the 4-3 throughout Kubiak’s tenure.

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