Ravens in evaluation mode

OWINGS MILLS - In terms of clarity in free agency, the Baltimore Ravens aren't a mystery. Baltimore remains in contract discussions with outside linebacker Jamir Miller and wide receiver Frank Sanders, both of whom have visited the Ravens' training complex. "We have been in constant contact," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "It's an ongoing negotiation." As for the NFL Draft, the Ravens are in a fluid evaluation mode as they finalize their draft board and attend personal workouts.

On Monday, Ravens personnel attended an audition by Marshall senior quarterback Byron Leftwich.

What the Ravens might do with the 10th overall selection of the first round remains unclear because of several options and needs.

Should they draft a quarterback after the departure of Jeff Blake and the back surgery of Chris Redman?

Should they acquire a hefty defensive lineman to keep blockers off of middle linebacker Ray Lewis and provide an interior pass rush? Or is a speed rusher the proper tonic?

Should they consider a wide receiver based on last year's lack of production?

Will they attempt to move up through a trade or move down for extra selections?

"I would agree that we're something of a wild card when it comes to the draft," Ravens director of personnel Phil Savage said. "I think it's still up in the air. Positionally, or if we were even to stay where we are. Traditionally, we've stayed put.

"A lot of it has to do with what happens before us and our comfort level with the players who are still left on the board and what we might do from there."

Ravens coach Brian Billick, Savage, Newsome and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh attended Leftwich's workout in Bradenton, Fla., watching the 6-foot-6, 242-pounder cover 40 yards between 4.85 and 4.92 seconds and perform a variety of quarterback and agility drills.

Newsome acknowledged Leftwich's health after watching him test out a twice-fractured left tibia at Manatee High School.

"His workout went well," Savage said of Leftwich, who passed for 12,000 yards and 89 touchdowns for the Thundering Herd. "Was it great? Was it eye-popping? Probably not, but most guys generally don't, especially working with receivers they haven't worked with before."

Now, Leftwich is supposedly on the radar screen of the Cincinnati Bengals for the top overall selection although he faces stiff competition from Heisman Trophy-winning USC quarterback Carson Palmer and Kansas State cornerback Terence Newman.

Like most teams with a Top 10 selection in search of a quarterback, the Ravens will investigate the merits of several passers, including Palmer and Cal's fast-rising Kyle Boller.

There's always the possibility of a Leftwich, or defensive linemen like Penn State's Jimmy Kennedy, Arizona State's Terrell Suggs or Kentucky's Dewayne Robertson or Oklahoma State's Kevin Williams sliding down franchises' boards.

There's also the chance that the Ravens' new draft picks may supplant some players currently on the roster from last year's 7-9 squad.

"To me, it's important not to overevaluate who we have here right now," Savage said. "Guys came in and did a great job and got us to 7-9. We did better than expected, but are some of the players on our team good enough to take us to another level? I think that's what we have to be careful of."

NOTE: Miller's choices have been reduced since Tampa Bay signed former Cleveland Browns linebacker teammate Dwayne Rudd and Kansas City added end Vonnie Holliday.

Baltimore may not have any more competition left for the former Pro Bowler unless the Browns decide to try to retain Miller.

"Jamir had a positive visit," said Leigh Steinberg, Miller's agent. "That started with a breakfast with Brian and Ozzie in Phoenix, where they began their acquaintance. "Will he sign with Baltimore? Who wouldn't be enthusiastic about joining that defense? Everything is positive and upbeat."

Ravens Insider Top Stories