Shortly after bolstering their special teams unit by agreeing to terms with former Chicago Bears defensive back Corey Graham, the Ravens have kept a core special teams player of their own in house by reaching an agreement with three-time Pro Bowl player Brendon Ayanbadejo.
"I never planned on going anywhere," Ayanbadejo said on a conference call. "During this whole free agency period, I never stressed or worried about anything. I went on a vacation. I just waited my turn patiently. I figured that it would get done, I just didn't know exactly when. Now that it's here and it's done for me it's kind of anticlimactic, but it's done."
Ayanbadejo, 35, has been with the Ravens since the 2008 season. Contributing as a special teams captain and as a linebacker who was often used in passing situations, Ayanbadejo made 67 tackles the past four seasons. He also chipped in on the stat sheet with 3.5 sacks, a forced fumble and an interception.
"He's our leader on special teams, and we needed him back," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said in a news release. "He's valuable to everything we do on [special] teams. And, adding Corey and Sean [Considine] to those groups will help Brendon, who was double-teamed on most plays last season.
"The other good thing with Brendon is that he's a real factor on our defense with our [substitution] packages. His development in that area exceeded what we originally expected when we first signed him as the top special teams' player."
The Ravens want to improve their coverage units this offseason after surrendering three return touchdowns last season and allowing 29.2 yards per kickoff returns and 11.9 yards per punt return.
"Don't make any mistake, it wasn't the coaches fault," Ayanbadejo said. "It was purely the players and what was different last year the main thing different is we didn't have that offseason time to jel as a special teams unit and really learn how to play as a special teams unit."
Ayanbadejo recorded nine special teams tackles last season, good for second on the team behind Albert McClellan, who made 12.
The Ravens allowed Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski to leave in free agency, but they remained interested in retaining Ayanbadejo -- a Pro Bowl special teams player from 2006-08 with the Chicago Bears -- to provide leadership to a special teams unit that showed its inexperience at times in 2011.
"These young guys come in and they have to understand that they have to cover a kick before they go out there and cover a receiver. They're going to cover a kick before they run a route. I don't think last year's group got that," he said. "They felt like they were going to come in and surpass special teams and play defense right away. Their priorities were in the wrong places.
"It's not just on the young guys. It's on guys like myself. I missed some tackles. As a group, we have to focus and put that time and dedication and understand there is an order to how this game is played. Special teams is one-third of the game. For some guys it's the only part of the game and it's the most important part of the game and you have to dedicate and focus yourself to that part of the game and not the other phases."
Graham and Ayanbadejo are the third and fourth free agents the Ravens have signed this offseason, with Graham being the first from another team. The Ravens also brought back veteran center Matt Birk and re-signed linebacker Chavis Williams, who played mostly on special teams last season.
Pro Football Talk first reported that the Ravens had agreed to terms on a three-year contract with Ayanbadejo.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times