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Browns force Ravens to put up or shut up for ex-Rocket Taylor

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The Baltimore Ravens will be forced to multiply their original offer by five if they decide to retain the services of running back Chester Taylor.

If not, the former University of Toledo standout will be playing next season for the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns signed Taylor to a one-year offer sheet yesterday worth a reported $3 million. Since Taylor is a restricted free agent - a player with three years of experience who was offered a 2005 contract by his existing team - the Ravens have until March 23 to match that offer and retain Taylor's services.

Baltimore previously tendered Taylor a low-ball offer of $656,000 for next season.

In Baltimore, Taylor has played behind Jamal Lewis, the NFL's leading rusher in 2003.

Taylor started four games this past season while Lewis was serving a suspension and finished the year with career highs of 160 carries and 714 yards.

Two of those starts resulted in back-to-back, 100-yard games in early December. He gained 139 yards against Cincinnati and 104 versus the New York Giants, opening eyes to his potential as a feature back.

If he joins the Browns, who have given running back William Green the OK to seek a trade, Taylor would compete against Lee Suggs for the starting position.

It would be a stretch for the Ravens, who just recently emerged from salary cap woes, to pay Taylor $3 million in a back-up role, but team spokesman Kevin Byrne told the Baltimore Sun that the team will use its one-week window to consider it.

"We feel like Chester Taylor is a very good running back and we will take that full allotment of time," Byrne said.

If the Ravens opt to not match the Browns' offer, they will receive Cleveland's sixth-round draft pick as compensation.

Baltimore selected Taylor in the sixth round of the 2002 NFL Draft following his record-setting career at UT.

Taylor, from River Rouge, Mich., earned All-MAC and All-American honors while becoming Toledo's all-time leading rusher with 4,849 yards from 1998-2001.

The 207th player taken in the 2002 draft, Taylor has appeared in all 48 of Baltimore's regular-season games since being drafted.

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