Owl: Look Behind You

Whether Phil Savage likes it or not, his old team lurks right behind the Cleveland Browns in the draft order. Having Brian Billick and company waiting to pounce on whoever the Browns don't pick, may very well wind up effecting the Browns...

Let's fast forward to about 3 p.m. next Saturday. The Browns are on the clock. They know what they want to do, but in the back of their minds if they do not do one thing, they might end up regretting it for years to come, and they might be reminded of their decision twice a year.

Drafting defensively should mean taking a lineman, a linebacker or a defensive back for the Browns, but in what could be a curious dilemma, it might mean something completely different.

The Browns pick 12th. Right behind them is Baltimore with the 13th pick. Drafting defensively in this case could mean sabotaging the Ravens' plans if the Browns can help themselves at the same time.

One of the Ravens' biggest needs is at safety and it could work out perfectly for them to take Texas safety Michael Huff if the Lions do not take Huff ninth. The Ravens also need a nose tackle. Most experts believe Haloti Ngata from Oregon will be gone before the Browns pick. If he is still around at 12 and the Browns pass on him because they signed Ted Washington the Ravens would likely take Ngata over Huff.

Browns general manager Phil Savage said he could draft Ngata despite having Washington because Ngata could play end for two years - the length of Washington's contract. The pick would help the Browns and frustrate Baltimore.

But the biggest dilemma for the Browns will occur if Jay Cutler or Vince Young is still around at 12. The best quarterback in the draft, Matt Leinart, will be among the top four picks, but there is a possibility one of the other highly rated passers will fall, especially if Tennessee does not take a quarterback with the third pick. At least one mock draft has the Ravens taking Cutler.

The Ravens need a quarterback desperately. They prefer a veteran to support and push Kyle Boller, but if Cutler falls to 12 and the Browns pass, the Ravens could be too tempted not to stake their fortunes on another rookie. Ravens coach Brian Billick could finally admit taking Boller in the first round in 2003 was a mistake.

"There is a reason why Bill Walsh never took a first-round quarterback," Billick told reporters recently. "If you're going to crap shoot, don't do it in the first round. No matter how good you are (as an evaluator) and what your track record is, if it's a crap shoot, you don't want

to throw that dice on the fifth, 10th, 15th or 25th pick. You'll do it with 40, 50, fifth round and sixth round.

"In hindsight, you go around and check with everybody's draft board. They'll tell you afterward where they had Leinart, Cutler and Vince Young. Vince Young seems to be the most debatable and interesting topic right now. There are some that will have him as high as five and some will have him as low as 15 or 20. After the fact, if Vince Young makes it, then you'll hear, 'I knew he would.' If he doesn't make it, you'll hear, 'That's why we had him rated that low.'"

The Browns will not take a quarterback with the 12th pick just to keep Baltimore from doing so; they are satisfied with Charlie Frye. Still, Cutler could be difficult to pass on. What if he turns out to be the next Ben Roethlisberger?

The best option for the Browns would be trading first-round picks with the Vikings - something Savage on Tuesday said he would be willing to do without naming the Vikings specifically. The Vikings need a quarterback. The Browns could pick up Minnesota's third round pick, keep their own choices in rounds two through seven and still get a good player with the 17th pick. Such a trade would not be finalized until the Browns were ready to pick.

"Cutler is kind of like Kyle," Billick said. "There is some apprehension in some of the things around him. You admire him for doing things with less than a stellar cast around him. But are you giving him too much dispensation for things that didn't go well? You dismiss some of those losses by saying, 'It's just Vanderbilt. What a great kid, he overcame all of these things.'

"With Young, you knew we were going to beat him up. He was just too good to be true. The
 problem that I see personally is I don't know who you compare him to. I think that makes people uncomfortable."

Billick was asked directly whether the Ravens would take a quarterback in the first round. He deferred to Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens general manager.

"You have to talk to Ozzie about that one," Billick said. "If he's the highest rated guy on the board, we'll take him."

Here's hoping the Browns don't have to worry about giving the Ravens their real quarterback of the future.

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