Ravens may invest in savings plan for draft

April 09, 1997|By Ken Rosenthal

Incompetent? Who called them incompetent?

On Monday, the Ravens finally introduced a free agent with all of his limbs intact. And on draft day, they're certain to upgrade their defense even more.

Don't be a doubting Thomas.

Forget about Broderick Thomas.

The Ravens can't possibly screw this up, unless they draft Brock Marion's nephew out of Injury State.

They've got the No. 4 pick, OK?

They've got the No. 4 pick, and they'll either use it to draft a premier player or trade down to a position where they still could land a quality linebacker.

The latter remains the more likely scenario, but vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome said yesterday that he still might keep the pick and take Florida State defensive end Peter Boulware.

"If we don't get the deal we want, we'll stay there and pick," Newsome said. "We're not going to accept any type of trade."

But could the Ravens find a spot for Boulware when they've already got Michael McCrary and Rob Burnett at defensive end?

"We'd get him on the field," Newsome said.

It wouldn't be so difficult. Boulware could be insurance for Burnett as a third-down pass rusher or outside linebacker -- just as last year's No. 1, Jonathan Ogden, played out of position before replacing Tony Jones.

Burnett is coming off major knee surgery, and the Dolphins' Jimmy Johnson apparently covets Boulware. Given J. J.'s eye for talent, that might be the best reason of all for the Ravens to take an end who recently ran an astonishing 4.52 40-yard dash.

Still, Art Modell doesn't sound enthusiastic.

"We're going to a 4-3 defense, and he's a 3-4 linebacker," the owner said yesterday. "That's why when we signed McCrary, it sort of nullified the Boulware option."

Perhaps Modell is trying to mask the Ravens' intentions, giving the appearance they would trade down to increase the demand for the No. 4 pick. But the way things look, Boulware is indeed a questionable fit.

The only way the Ravens can afford the No. 4 pick is if they compromise their depth at other positions -- a pointless strategy when they've got a chance to increase their depth by trading down.

The idea would be to stay in the Top 10, select Virginia's James Farrior or Alabama's Dwayne Rudd and perhaps use the additional second-round pick on another linebacker.

The Ravens could then use their savings to sign two free agents from a group that includes defensive tackle Tony Siragusa, safety Robert Blackmon and linebacker Mike Caldwell. Now, they've got cap room for only one.

Put it all together, trading down could net the Ravens two extra players, plus a natural outside linebacker (Farrior or Rudd) instead of a converted one (Boulware).

The only way you pass up that deal is if Boulware is the next Lawrence Taylor. And if he is, Bill Parcells will draft him No. 1 for the New York Jets.

Parcells, obviously, holds the key to the draft. USC defensive tackle Darrell Russell is his most logical choice. But Parcells, too, is talking about trading down, perhaps even twice.

His plan could be to convince the Seattle Seahawks that he would take Ohio State cornerback Shawn Springs, trade down for their No. 3 selection and then use it on either Russell or as the bait for another deal.

It probably wouldn't work -- does anyone seriously believe Parcells would take a corner at No. 1? -- but the Jets, like the Ravens, are a team with major cap problems, a team that covets less expensive second-round picks.

The Ravens already have two -- their own at No. 34, plus Denver's at No. 58. Trading down could get them a third, and Newsome said it's possible, given the interest in Springs and Texas corner Bryant Westbrook.

"The two corners are what people want," Newsome said. "If they don't get one of those corners, they may have to take a lesser corner later in the draft. That's where the value of the fourth pick is right now."

Then again, if the corners are so good, why don't the Ravens just take one of them? For one thing, they don't believe Springs or Westbrook will be as dominant as Deion Sanders. What's more, they want to use the players they have.

"We feel like we've got Antonio [Langham], we've got Donny [Brady] and DeRon [Jenkins] -- we've got some young corners," Newsome said. "We don't know if they can cover or not. We didn't get to the passer last year.

"It's hard for us to judge those guys. They all have talent and ability. We'd like to give them a chance. We have a lot of respect for Westbrook and Springs. They would come in and upgrade us. [But] we still wouldn't be getting to the quarterback."

Added Modell: "It would be nice to have Springs or Westbrook, but our needs are not at the corner. Our needs are pass rush. I can cover Jerry Rice if you give me a pass rush."

Well, McCrary automatically improves the pass rush -- he had 13 1/2 sacks in the final eight games for Seattle last season. And Farrior or Rudd could make a Ray Lewis-type impact at outside linebacker.

Of the two, Modell said that Farrior "may have a little edge" -- Rudd, a third-year junior at Alabama, probably could not make as strong a contribution immediately.

The secondary still would be suspect, but you win with the front seven, and speed at linebacker is critical in a division where the quarterbacks include Mark Brunell, Jeff Blake, Steve McNair and possibly Kordell Stewart.

The Ravens got better on Monday.

They'll get even better on draft day.

Incompetent? Who called them incompetent?

By golly, they're on a roll.

Pub Date: 4/09/97

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