Ravens make defensive stand DE Boulware picked at No. 4

LB Sharper is second-round bonus

Safety Herring a plus, too

Marchibroda: 'We have filled the major needs'

April 20, 1997|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

The Ravens breathed a collective sigh of relief shortly after the first pick in the draft yesterday, and then filled their biggest off-season needs by selecting Florida State defensive end Peter Boulware in the first round and Virginia outside linebacker Jamie Sharper and Penn State safety Kim Herring in the second.

All three will have an impact on the Ravens' defense, which was ranked last in the league last season. All three are projected as starters. The selection of Herring forces the Ravens to move Donny Brady from safety to right cornerback, where he will battle second-year player DeRon Jenkins to start.

Before the draft, the Ravens knew they had a great opportunity to get Boulware -- as long as St. Louis took Ohio State offensive tackle Orlando Pace No. 1 -- but Sharper and Herring were unexpected gifts. Sharper was considered the third-best outside linebacker in college, and Herring was rated one of the top five safeties.

"This has been a great draft and we have filled the major needs of our football team," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said. "We didn't expect Sharper, and Herring is a great athlete. We've improved the talent of our defense."

Of Boulware and Sharper, Marchibroda said: "If they have to rush the passer, they're capable. If they have to cover backs coming out of the backfield, they're capable of doing that, too. And they love to hit."

Ravens vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome was less glowing, but even he was pleased about the day's events.

"If they become productive starters for four or five years, than it was a productive draft," Newsome said. "But they all seem to be great athletes with solid character who have noses for the ball."

Marchibroda said the Ravens knew Boulware would be theirs after St. Louis made Pace the No. 1 pick.

"That's when we knew he was going to be our player," Marchibroda said. "We thought Oakland would take Darrell Russell at No. 2 and Seattle wanted Shawn Springs at No. 3, but we weren't exactly sure about all the reports about Pace and St. Louis."

Despite some of the wheeling and dealing throughout the

league, the Ravens had only one call during their 15 minutes before the Boulware pick.

That was from the New York Giants, who had orally agreed to trade up with the Ravens from No. 7 and also give the Ravens a third-round draft choice if Boulware and Russell were not available at No. 4.

"I pretty much knew [Friday night] what Baltimore was going to do," Giants general manager George Young said. "By the time it got to them, there was no question on who they were going to take."

Boulware, 6 feet 4 and 255 pounds, was the top-rated pass rusher in college, and the Ravens' top priorities were signing another pass rusher, outside linebacker and either a cornerback or a safety. They got a two-for-one deal in Boulware, who has long arms, good strength and explosive closing speed.

Boulware had 68 tackles with 20 for losses, including 19 sacks last season. At least on first and second down, the Ravens plan to play him at strong-side linebacker, a position he has never played.

"I feel great about the move to linebacker," said Boulware, who said he'd be happy to do whatever the team asked of him. "All it is to me is a transition, just learning some different techniques and different things they do. I think it will be a smooth transition. I think I have the body to play linebacker. I'm excited."

So are the Ravens. They envision Boulware lining up anywhere on the line of scrimmage on passing downs and creating mismatches on the perimeter. He'll also be teaming with second-year middle linebacker Ray Lewis.

"He's a good kid and a heck of a player," said Lewis, who went to Miami. "His motor never stops. He keeps going all four quarters. He has so much agility and so much quickness off the ball. He can make an impact quickly. He can be the difference in four or five games with the way he pressures the quarterback."

Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, who lobbied hard for Boulware to owner Art Modell, echoed the praise. "He knows he is not going to be a 280-pound defensive end. He knows this is his opportunity to impact the game," Lewis said.

Getting Boulware into training camp by mid-July might be a problem because of the contract signed by last year's No. 1 Ravens pick, Jonathan Ogden, the left offensive tackle from UCLA.

Ogden signed a seven-year contract worth an average of $2.2 million a year, including a record rookie signing bonus of $6.8 million as the fourth pick last season. The contract was unique because it offered voidables and buybacks in the final four years, and the league was trying to avoid voidables.

Ogden's signing bonus also was $300,000 more than those received by Keyshawn Johnson and Simeon Rice, the first and third players taken, respectively.

The club knows the importance of Boulware getting to training camp on time, but it also realizes the leverage Ogden had as the first draft pick in Ravens history.

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