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Newsome: ‘Jarret is a Raven’

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(Credits: Tom Croke/Icon SMI)

Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson figures to be one of the toughest decisions the Baltimore Ravens will have to make when free agency begins this off-season.

Johnson, a fourth-round draft pick out of the University of Alabama in 2003, will become an unrestricted free agent in March. There has been some buzzing that the Ravens would let Johnson walk, as the team may be looking to go younger and faster at the position. Baltimore already has Paul Kruger and Sergio Kindle on the roster and will most likely seek linebacker help through the draft.

Johnson, 30, has played in a franchise record 129 games, and hasn’t missed a start in the past five seasons. Last season, Johnson recorded 56 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks and three pass deflections.

While the Ravens will strongly consider re-signing Johnson, they will also have to come up with the money to re-sign the likes of running back Ray Rice, quarterback Joe Flacco and

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possibly left guard Ben Grubbs. There are a lot of dollars to go around and only so much salary cap space, so if Johnson were to hit the free agent market, the Ravens likely to have some competition.

However, at his news conference from the NFL combine on Friday, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome was not ready to concede that Johnson would be leaving the Charm City any time soon.

“I had a conversation with Jarret at the end of the season and I told him I would maintain communication with him throughout the process,” Newsome said, via BaltimoreRavens.com. “Jarret is a Raven. He plays like a Raven and we’d love to have him back if things can work itself out.”

For what it’s worth, The Sporting News lists Johnson as the No. 46 free agent available this off-season.