Ravens toy with early pick of QB

But offensive lineman more likely with No. 29

April 18, 2007|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

Near the end of yesterday's draft luncheon, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome produced the biggest revelation of the day when he said there could be a quarterback that the team would take with the 29th pick of the first round.

A few minutes after the news conference concluded, Newsome told a smaller group of reporters: "Nothing I said today will allow you to know what we're going to do at the draft because I said we might take a quarterback at 29."

Subterfuge aside, it's more likely the Ravens will take an offensive lineman instead of a quarterback in the first round of next week's draft.

The Ravens not only need a backup tackle right away, but they also could need someone to start next season.

Offensive linemen who have visited the Ravens or are scheduled to do so include Texas' Justin Blalock, Tennessee's Arron Sears and Arkansas' Tony Ugoh, all of whom can play both guard and tackle.

The Ravens also have shown interest in Central Michigan tackle Joe Staley, Southern California center Ryan Kalil, Auburn guard Ben Grubbs and Iowa tackle Marshal Yanda.

If the first round goes as expected, the Ravens could have their pick of all of these prospects (with the possible exception of Staley) when they're on the clock on April 28.

"I think this year's crop of offensive linemen is pretty strong," said Eric DeCosta, Ravens director of college scouting.

Offensive tackle is one of the team's thinnest positions heading into the draft.

There is no experienced backup on the roster after the team promoted Adam Terry to replace Tony Pashos at right tackle. And there is no current replacement at left tackle if Jonathan Ogden retires.

Despite their continued optimism, Ravens officials said they have not heard from Ogden on whether he will come back for a 12th season. Even if he returns, it's unknown whether he'll play beyond this season.

"It sounds like [Ogden's injured] toe is coming along very, very well," said coach Brian Billick, who met with Ogden last month. "He's starting very aggressively to condition, which I think is a good time. Outside of that, it would be conjecture."

Another target in this year's draft is a quarterback to groom behind Steve McNair.

But the Ravens are expected to address this position after the first round, although Newsome did attempt to convince otherwise.

"People around the league are saying [the Ravens] are concentrating on the offensive line," he said. "We've evaluated the quarterback group as much as any position in the draft."

The Ravens will have visits from at least five quarterback prospects before the draft: Stanford's Trent Edwards, Brigham Young's John Beck, Houston's Kevin Kolb, Ohio State's Troy Smith and Washington's Isaiah Stanback. They also have expressed interest in Oregon State's Matt Moore and Michigan State's Drew Stanton.

"It's a diverse quarterback group," Billick said. "What's intriguing is there appears to be some options at about every round."

Besides a quarterback or an offensive lineman, the Ravens could come away with either a cornerback or linebacker in the first round.

There is a chance prospects such as Arkansas cornerback Chris Houston or Florida State linebacker Lawrence Timmons could slip to the bottom of the first round. Another possibility is Purdue pass rusher Anthony Spencer.

All would add depth to the NFL's top-ranked defense.

"When you have a need, you stack the board a certain way," Billick said. "There's no stacking here. We'll take what comes and we'll be a better football team."

Newsome reiterated yesterday that the Ravens will submit a contract extension proposal to linebacker Terrell Suggs between today and the draft. But Newsome said there are no guarantees an agreement will be reached, especially when there are rapidly escalating deals awaiting players in free agency.

"We're going to try to be aggressive in getting Suggs signed," Newsome said. "But we also realize the climate in the league has changed a little bit and that could prohibit us from getting it done."

The Ravens' first training camp practice at McDaniel College is tentatively scheduled for July 30. Their scrimmage against the Washington Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 4.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Draft coverage

Beginning Sunday, The Sun will feature expanded daily Ravens and NFL coverage leading up to the April 28-29 NFL draft.

Ravens visits

The confirmed list of draft prospects who have visited the Ravens or are scheduled to do so:

OFFENSIVE LINE

Jermon Bushrod, Towson*; Justin Blalock, Texas; Arron Sears, Tennessee; Tony Ugoh, Arkansas.

QUARTERBACK

John Beck, Brigham Young; Trent Edwards, Stanford; Kevin Kolb, Houston; Troy Smith, Ohio State; Isaiah Stanback, Washington.

DEFENSIVE END

Victor Abiamiri, Notre Dame*.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Robert Armstrong, Morgan State*.

CORNERBACK

Tanard Jackson, Syracuse; David Jones, Wingate.

LINEBACKER

Stewart Bradley, Nebraska; Stephen Nicholas, South Florida.

RECEIVER

Yamon Figurs, Kansas State.

RUNNING BACK

Chris Henry, Arizona; Marshawn Lynch, California.

FULLBACK

Stan White Jr., Ohio State*.

KICKER

Ben Scott, Johns Hopkins*.

*-Player with local ties

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