Meetings are downer for Ravens' Newsome Club VP looks to trade No. 10 for 2 lower picks with owners in Orlando

March 24, 1998|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Ozzie Newsome is going to be doing a lot of talking at the NFL owners meetings this week -- most of it outside the meeting rooms.

The Ravens' vice president of player personnel has three main items on his agenda:

Opening talks with teams in the slots between 15th and 20th on the first round of the draft to set the stage for trading down from the 10th spot.

Signing a backup tackle who also can play guard to give the team more depth on the offensive line.

Starting discussions with Ray Anderson, the agent for wide receiver/kick returner Jermaine Lewis, about a long-term contract.

Newsome says he thinks he can replace the third-round pick he gave up to get quarterback Jim Harbaugh by trading down to between the 15th and 20th slots.

He's hoping a team interested in moving up to get a linebacker or a defensive lineman -- two positions the Ravens aren't interested in on the first round -- will be willing to give a third-round pick to move up.

Newsome hopes he can get the same player between the 15th and 20th slots that he would have gotten in the 10th spot because only one cornerback, Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, is ranked in the top 10 and he'll be long gone before the Ravens pick. They want a cornerback because they lost free-agent cornerback Antonio Langham to San Francisco.

The Ravens' other alternative in the first round is to pick a wide receiver because they lost free agent Derrick Alexander to Kansas City.

Only one wide receiver in the draft, Marshall's Randy Moss, has top 10 talent, but he's a risk because of his off-the-field problems, including a failed drug test.

"That'll be an organizational decision," Newsome said when asked what the Ravens would do if Moss is on the board when they make their selection.

The Ravens/Browns have batted .500 in recent years in passing up players with troubled reputations on the first round.

In 1995, the club passed on defensive lineman Warren Sapp in the 10th spot because of reports he had failed drug tests in college. The team traded down and took linebacker Craig Powell, who was a bust, although it also got a first-round choice out of the deal that was used to select linebacker Ray Lewis in 1996.

Sapp, of course, has emerged as a standout at Tampa Bay, signing a $36 million deal last week.

By contrast, the Ravens passed on running back Lawrence Phillips in 1996 with the fourth pick to take offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden. While Ogden is already a Pro Bowler, Phillips ** was cut by St. Louis last year and is currently with Miami.

The teams between the 15th and 20th slots are the Seattle Seahawks, the Tennessee Oilers, the Cincinnati Bengals, the New York Jets -- who will give up the pick to New England if the Patriots don't match their offer sheet for Curtis Martin -- the Miami Dolphins and the Detroit Lions.

Newsome is ruling out the Bengals because they also have the 13th pick and team president Mike Brown confirmed that the club's not interested. And the Jets' 18th pick is in limbo because of their offer for Martin.

That leaves the Seahawks, Oilers, Dolphins and Lions as the prime candidates. Newsome said he already has talked to one of those teams, and officials for the Seahawks, Dolphins and Lions all said they might be interested.

Oilers coach Jeff Fisher said Tennessee could be interested in moving up or down.

The Dolphins' chief personnel man, Bob Ackles, said his team hasn't made any decisions yet, but coach Jimmy Johnson often likes to wheel-and-deal.

Newsome also said he had talks with Carolina, which has the 14th pick, about swapping first-round picks as part of a deal for cornerback Tyrone Pool. But the two sides couldn't reach a deal.

Although Newsome said he'll be talking to teams during the meetings, he doesn't expect to finalize a deal this week. He said that'll come closer to the April 18 draft or even on draft day.

The Ravens, who had 12 draft picks last year, have just five this year due to the Harbaugh deal and because they traded their seventh-round choice to Philadelphia for guard Ben Cavil.

Newsome doesn't expect to get any supplemental picks this year because the club signed more free agents last year than they lost. But he said he expects to get extra picks next year when they will "reap the benefits" of losing Langham and Alexander.

Newsome also wants to sign a backup tackle to give him depth behind Ogden and Orlando Brown. Newsome wouldn't identify the player, but conceded that Larry Sharpe of Detroit, Earnest Dye of St. Louis and Matt Willig of Atlanta are among the candidates.

The new player will join the mix in the battle to replace waived guard Leo Goeas. Cavil is another candidate and Newsome said Wally Williams could play guard if Jeff Mitchell, the center who missed his rookie year with an injury, winds up as one of the five best linemen.

Since Anderson, who also represents such coaches as Tony Dungy of Tampa Bay and Dennis Green of Minnesota, plans to attend the meeting, Newsome said he wants to talk to him about extending Lewis' contract.

Lewis is entering the third year of a three-year contract he signed as a rookie in 1996 for the minimum salary. He'll become a restricted free agent at the end of this season and an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 1999 season so Newsome would like to start discussing a deal that will take him off the free-agent market.

Pub Date: 3/24/98

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