Ravens lure Birk from Vikings

Updated: March 5, 2009, 3:13 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

After 11 seasons and six Pro Bowl appearances for the Minnesota Vikings, free-agent center Matt Birk is leaving the team.

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Matt Birk, Brian Dawkins and Kurt Warner are the 2009 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award nominees.

Birk agreed to a contract with the Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday afternoon. He will replace center Jason Brown, who this week signed a five-year, $37.5 million contract with the St. Louis Rams. Birk will provide stability to Baltimore's blocking unit.

Birk's contract is worth $12 million over four years, sources told ESPN.com, with $6 million of the deal guaranteed. Birk will receive $9 million in the first two years of the deal, which is believed to be similar to the one offered by the Vikings.

Birk and his wife, Adrianna, visited with Ravens officials on Tuesday evening. Birk then spent most of Wednesday deliberating over the two offers. Landing Birk, who many figured would play his entire career in Minnesota, is a nice recovery for Ravens officials, who began recruiting him only a few days ago, after Brown's departure.

The Ravens might have had a difficult time replacing Brown, whose size was effective against the 3-4 nose tackles in the AFC, but Birk is an excellent fit for a Baltimore team that advanced to the AFC Championship Game last season.

Birk, 32, has played in 146 games, with 123 starts. He missed some time in 2004 with a sports hernia and sat out the entire 2005 season because of hip surgery. But Birk has started all 16 games in each of the past three seasons.

A former Harvard star, considered a stalwart on the Minnesota line, Birk has started all 16 games seven times in his career. In his first two seasons, Birk played in only 22 games, with no starts. He became a full-time starter, however, in his third season.

A sixth-round choice of Minnesota in the 1998 draft, Birk will arguably be considered among the greatest players in Vikings franchise history. He has been very involved in the community, with several charitable endeavors, and will be missed in that regard as well.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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