Ravens' Gaither might be trade bait

Team could use left tackle to restock draft selections

March 08, 2010|By Jamison Hensley | jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

The Ravens could increase their depth through free agency over the next few weeks, whether it's picking up a cornerback, defensive end or tight end.

If the Ravens' scouts had their way, the team would acquire something even more valuable: additional draft picks. The Ravens have five selections in next month's NFL draft after Friday's trade for wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

The Ravens' best shot at gaining a pick in the first or second round would be to deal starting offensive tackle Jared Gaither, the team's most attractive trade bait.

No team official has said the Ravens would give up Gaither for a high pick, but the team seemed to signal it would listen to offers by giving Gaither a first-round tender as a restricted free agent instead of the high one (which would require teams to give up picks in the first and third rounds). The Denver Broncos chose the same tender for disgruntled wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who is shopping himself around now.

So, would the Ravens keep Gaither if offered a first- or second-round pick? It's a decision they might soon have to face.

Teams could be willing to give up a pick in the first or second round for Gaither because he's young (he'll turn 24 next week), experienced (already a two-year starter) and unique (a 6-foot-9, 340-pound lineman with skills). The Ravens, who could keep Gaither by matching any offer, might be willing to let him go because of his less-than-desirable work ethic and durability issues (he missed five games last season).

Four teams who could show interest are the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts.

The 49ers and Seahawks need help at offensive tackle and could be inclined to go after Gaither because they have multiple picks in the first round. The Colts and Cowboys could be intrigued because they are limited in free agency by the "Final Eight" rule.

If the Ravens would trade Gaither, they would move 2009 first-round pick Michael Oher to left tackle, where he made five starts last season. The team then would have to fill the void left by Oher at right tackle.

Attempts to reach Gaither's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, were unsuccessful Sunday.

The Ravens need more picks because they gave up theirs in the third and fourth rounds for Boldin and a fifth-rounder. Besides, the team had already dealt this year's seventh-round pick in a 2008 trade for defensive end Marques Douglas.

At this point, that leaves the Ravens with two selections in the first 152 picks of a very deep draft (it could be more or fewer after compensatory picks are given out). The Ravens could always gain more picks by trading back in the draft.

Trading has become another option this season.

With fewer unrestricted free agents because of the uncapped year, teams seem more interested in trading to improve themselves than they had been in the past.

Besides Gaither, the lower-than-expected tenders to two restricted free agents (quarterback Troy Smith and wide receiver Mark Clayton) seem to indicate that the Ravens are willing to field offers. Smith, whose agent had requested a trade toward the end of the regular season, was given a low tender, which means he could be available for a fifth-round pick. Clayton, who received a second-round tender, could be expendable if the Ravens re-sign Derrick Mason to go along with newcomers, Boldin and Donte' Stallworth.

The team would probably be open to talk about running back Willis McGahee, but it makes more sense to hold on to him now at least through the draft.

Note: The Ravens should receive at least one additional pick through the NFL's compensatory system.

It's a complicated league formula based on the number of unrestricted free agents lost from the previous offseason ( Bart Scott, Jason Brown, Jim Leonhard, Kyle Boller) compared with the ones added (Domonique Foxworth, Matt Birk and Chris Carr).

Compensatory picks, which are added to the bottom of the round, will be announced at the NFL owners meetings in two weeks.

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