Ayanbadejo Returning To Ravens

The special teams ace is coming back on a three-year deal.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Friday, March 23rd, 2012 at 11:18 am | Categories: Ryan Mink

The Ravens landed former Chicago Bears free-agent special teams Pro Bowler Corey Graham early Friday morning.

Just a few hours later, news broke that they are also bringing back their own ace.

The Ravens and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo have agreed to a three-year deal, the team announced Friday.

“I never really planned on going anywhere,” Ayanbadejo said on a conference call Friday afternoon. “I figured it would get done, I just didn’t know exactly when.”

For Ayanbadejo, a big part in his reason to return was having the chance to compete for a Super Bowl.

Ayanbadejo Talks About Returning

“That’s a major factor,” Ayanbadejo said. “I think the Ravens have all the pieces, and now we’ve just got to go out there and execute and get it done.”

With Ayanbadejo back, the Ravens and Head Coach John Harbaugh (a former special teams coach) are making a clear effort to bolster their special teams unit.

The Ravens were 31st in the NFL last year in average yards surrendered per kickoff return (29.2) and gave up one touchdown. They ranked 24th in average punt yards allowed per return (11.9) and gave up two touchdowns there.

Ayanbadejo logged nine special teams tackles last season, the second-most on the team behind Albert McClellan’s 12, and recovered one fumble.

“He’s our leader on special teams and we needed him back,” General Manager Ozzie Newsome said. “He’s valuable to everything we do on (special) teams.”

He did it despite often being double-teamed by opponents’ blocking, and could find more space with the Ravens also bringing on Graham.

Ayanbadejo, 35, is a three-time special teams Pro Bowler (2006, 2007, 2008). He played in all 16 games last year, and despite his age remains one of the most physically in shape players on the roster.

Ayanbadejo joked that nobody needs to know his age, and said he’s currently staying in shape by working out with younger NFL players. He said he still sets the pace in workouts.

Ayanbadejo also provides depth in the Ravens’ linebacker corps, which has already lost outside linebacker Jarret Johnson and has inside linebacker Jameel McClain available on the free-agent market.

Mostly providing help in passing downs, Ayanbadejo recorded 35 tackles, two pass deflections and 1.5 sacks last year. His role has grown on defense over his four years in Baltimore.

“The other good thing with Brendon is that he’s a real factor on our defense with our sub (substitution) packages,” Newsome said. “His development in that area exceeded what we originally expected when we first signed him as the top special teams’ player.”

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