BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens decided against designating Pro Bowl linebacker Adalius Thomas their franchise player, a move that will enable the seven-year veteran to become an unrestricted free agent.
The Ravens haven't given up on the possibility of retaining Thomas, who ranked third on the team with 106 tackles. But they were unwilling to pay him $7.2 million -- the average salary of the top five linebackers in the league.
"Our hope is that we can re-sign him," general manager Ozzie Newsome said Thursday. "Our plan is to compete at a championship level in 2007 and beyond."
Signing Thomas would have sent the Ravens near the ceiling of their salary cap, and Newsome was unwilling to restrict his spending -- and his ability to improve other positions -- to retain the 29-year-old linebacker.
The Ravens should receive plenty of competition in their bid to secure Thomas, who had a career-high 11 sacks in 2006.
"I would think A.D. would be at the top of most teams lists," said Thomas' agent, Bus Cook. "A.D. would like to stay in Baltimore, but ... it's a business. That's the way it goes."
The 6-foot-2, 270-pound Thomas was drafted in the sixth round out of Southern Mississippi. He starred as a special teams player early in his career, making the Pro Bowl in 2003, before becoming a regular on defense in 2004.
Thomas is one of 10 Ravens who can become unrestricted free agents March 2. The others: DT Aubrayo Franklin; DE Jarret Johnson; LB Tim Johnson; RBs Ovie Mughelli, Musa Smith and Nick Luchey; OT Tony Pashos; DB Gerome Sapp; and WR Alex Bannister.
In other news, the Ravens disclosed that the contract extension signed by head coach Brian Billick last month was for four years (through the 2010 season).
The team originally refused to reveal the duration of the contract, but decided to announce the length of the extension after published reports indicated the coach received one additional season.