Ravens Win Big In Draft For Need

Picks, Particularly On Defense, Make Team A Better One

April 21, 1997|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

There were a lot of handshakes and pats on the back at the Ravens' Owings Mills complex last night, and deservedly so. The Ravens had that kind of a draft.

It's not often that a team walks away from the two-day NFL draft with three rookies penciled in as starters, including college football's top-rated pass rusher in Florida State defensive end Peter Boulware.

The Ravens also drafted Virginia's Jamie Sharper, one of the nation's top-three outside linebackers, as well as a premier safety in Penn State's Kim Herring. They also drafted a physical middle linebacker in Louisville's Tyrus McCloud and put some speed on the perimeter with Tennessee running back Jay Graham.

The Ravens' draft was so thorough that it drew great reviews, from the national experts to those who had made the selections, such as coach Ted Marchibroda and vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome.

"This year, when you have as many holes as we did, especially on the defensive side of the ball, it was easy to draft for need," Newsome said. "We are definitely a better football team today than we were before the draft."

Said Marchibroda: "When I look over the board, I don't see a team that had a better draft than we did."

The Ravens filled all of their needs except two, at tight end and at cornerback. But they didn't necessarily need starters at either position.

Where the Ravens may have really picked up points, though, was in the public perception of how the club was run. During the team's first full off-season in Baltimore, the Ravens had a series of bad moves and poor luck, losing out on free agents such as Broderick Thomas and Brock Marion.

But that all changed with the signing of Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael McCrary two weeks ago, and the Ravens are still on a roll.

Ravens owner Art Modell made a good move by arranging the conditional trade with the New York Giants two days before the draft, assuring the Ravens of getting either Boulware, Southern California defensive tackle Darrell Russell or outside linebackers James Farrior of Virginia and Dwayne Rudd of Alabama.

The Ravens got Boulware, and combined with Sharper and Herring , they now have a defense that will at least be hungry, exciting and promising.

And if the team signs Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle Tony Siragusa -- yes, he passed a physical before the team tried to sign him -- the Ravens might have the beginning of something special. Negotiations with Siragusa begin today.

"These guys will be more accountable and more dependable. They're our guys," Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said.

"If it's going to be Dick Vermeil's team and Mike Ditka's team, then why can't this be Ted Marchibroda's team?" Newsome said.

The team will continue to pursue San Francisco 49ers fullback Tommy Vardell, but probably will only re-sign one of the two unrestricted free-agent outside linebackers who were with the team last year, Mike Caldwell and Jerrol Williams. It depends on which one signs the minimum veteran salary contract.

Defensive tackle Dan Footman probably won't have a choice. It's just a matter of time before he gets waived and his $1.3 million salary goes to Siragusa or some other defensive tackle the team will sign.

Modell promised a new look on defense this season and the Ravens got a face-lift over the weekend. The team may have also polished its image, with not just a good draft, but with a near excellent one.

Give them an A.

Defensive realignment

The Ravens figure to have seven different starters on their defense from the unit that lined up for their 1996 season opener:

Position, 1996 opener, 1997 projected

Left end, Rob Burnett, Rob Burnett

Left tackle, Tim Goad, James Jones

Right tackle, Dan Footman, Tony Siragusa*

Right end, Anthony Pleasant, Michael McCrary

Right linebacker, Mike Caldwell, Peter Boulware**

Middle linebacker, Ray Lewis, Ray Lewis

Left linebacker, Mike Croel, Jamie Sharper**

Left cornerback, Antonio Langham, Antonio Langham

Right cornerback, Issac Booth, DeRon Jenkins

Free safety, Eric Turner, Kim Herring**/Rondell Jones

Strong safety, Stevon Moore, Stevon Moore

*-Unsigned free agent. **-Rookie.

Pub Date: 4/21/97

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