Aaron Wilson answers Insiders' Questions

Aaron Wilson gives us answers to all the questions collected on the Ravens Insiders' forum over the last few days.

Question: Hi Aaron, keep up the great work.....where do the contract negotiations stand with TJ Slaughter?

Answer: The Ravens remain in productive talks with Slaughter's agent, Michael Huyghue. Slaughter is projected as the Ravens' starting weak side linebacker in a 4-3 alignment. He's believed to be seeking a four-year contract with average base salaries of $1.5 to $2.5 million annually and a signing bonus of $1 million. This is essentially lower middle class money for a starter and not completely out of the question considering the Ravens' salary-cap situation and his background as a productive starter for the Jacksonville Jaguars. By the way, Huyghue is a former executive with the Jaguars who is on good terms with Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome. I anticipate this deal getting done. As for when, I'm not a fortune teller, but everything seems to be positive thus far.

Question: Thanks for your time Aaron! You do a great job! But anyway, are the Ravens in any discussions with any free agent receivers...if so, who? And if not, who is the next player you expect them to sign. Thanks!

Answer: They held preliminary discussions, not serious talks with former New York Giants receiver Ike Hilliard. Nothing is imminent, and it's not clear that something will happen with him. I think Tai Streets and Corey Bradford are younger, healthier alternatives. However, this doesn't seem like an urgent issue to the Ravens right now and they might not act on this need until after the draft or post June 1 even.

Question: Greetings Aaron, Kordell Stewart seems to be out of a job since the Ravens plan to draft a QB in the late rounds. Do you have an idea who the Ravens are looking at? Thanks

Answer: Georgia quarterback David Greene would be a good clipboard quarterback. Adrian McPherson has loads of athletic potential, but does have some off-field issues in his past that would require investigating. I think it will be someone safe who is smart and has at least decent arm strength and accuracy. Not a high priority on their draft board, but something they'll likely address.

Question: Hello Aaron. I haven't heard much about Art Modell lately. How is his health and what is the level of his involvement with the team these days? Also, does David Modell have any official role with the Ravens any more?

Answer: Art Modell remains a 1-percent minority owner. He rarely attended practice after selling the team to Steve Bisciotti, but made occasional visits. He still talks to general manager Ozzie Newsome and other team officials regularly. The debilitating effects from his stroke still affect Art, but he remains an upbeat personality who is active in the community with philanthropic efforts. David Modell is a paid consultant for one more year. He visits the training complex sometimes. A portrait of Art Modell is a visible fixture at team headquarters and he does have an office there.

Question: Aaron do you feel that the Ravens are looking forward to taking advantage of the June 1st cuts to acquire the needed depth in regards to the needed positions of both O & D lines and CB, or will they just concentrate on the draft? Thanks

Answer: I think the June 1 market is typically overrated. Teams do a better job nowadays of managing the salary cap, so the market for released starters isn't as rich as it used to be. I think they will use the draft extensively and not wait until June to sign the players they want to upgrade the roster. Of course, they'll monitor the market, but they won't bank on it to fill needs.

Question: Hey Aaron, Thanks again for your input and time. Three players that might fit the Ravens need for a pure deep threat wide receiver are recently released New Orleans Saint Jerome Pathon, Houston Texan Corey Bradford, and first day draft prospect Jerome Mathis from Hampton University. Is there any buzz at Owings Mills about these players, and do any of them make sense in your eyes as a fit for the Ravens new Jim Fassel led offense.

Answer: Honestly, I haven't heard any of those names bandied about, but I'm not privy to every discussion. It's entirely possible that Baltimore will look to add speed on the perimeter. Of those players, I think Bradford would be the most helpful. He might cost more money than they want to spend, though.

Question: Hi Aaron, just wanted to know if you think Jamal will be ready to go by the start of the season? Do you think he will able to keep in shape where he is?

Answer: I think Jamal Lewis will be prepared, but may have some rust because of his surgery and incarceration. My understanding from talking to prison officials is that the exercise facilities are pretty good, including a jogging track, weight room, basketball court and access to outside medical assistance. Because I don't have firsthand knowledge of the situation and his progress other than Ozzie Newsome's comment that things are progressing well, I don't have much insight into how Lewis is doing. His lawyer said that he's handling the situation as well as he can and just wants to do his time quietly and get back to playing football.

Question: Will Peter Boulware be asked to rework his contact for 2005? If not, will he be cut?

Answer: He has a $6 million base salary, so probably they would want to rework it. I don't think Boulware will be cut  unless he can't make a full recovery. If he's capable of playing, they want him on the roster. It's not as if they can't afford to pay him, so it's not necessary to cut ties at this point.

Question: Aaron, what will a Jim Fassel-led offense look like in Baltimore and how will it contrast with what Matt Cavanaugh did here? Should we expect more diversity with the playbook?

Answer: Jim Fassel is a major proponent of play-action passes to set up vertical strikes, the running game, timing routes, throwing to the backs and tight ends. Over the years, his tailbacks and tight ends have had major production. He has also run a balanced attack that emphasized his players' individual talents. This is a major challenge, but he's gotten a lot done with lesser personnel in the past. He's a smart coach, so he'll adapt well to the Ravens' situation. He also has the ear of the head coach, too.

Question: Hey Aaron is there any possibility of the Ravens drafting Channing Crowder of Florida. And are the Ravens trying to find a replacement for Brooks since Carlisle backed out of his deal ? thanks

Answer: Crowder is high on a lot of teams' draft boards. He's an active, fast, tough linebacker. He would fit in well. He's a bit of a hothead at times off the field. The Ravens are scouring the market for linemen, but it's slim pickings. Don't rule out Brian Rimpf, who can play tackle and guard. He's developing well.

Question: Aaron, it seems like the Ravens have lost a fair amount of bulk, tackling and run stopping ability in the off-season (ed Hartwell, marques Douglas and Gary Baxter). My fear is that the ravens are becoming a team that opponents will be able to run over. I believe that some signs of this started last year. Do you think this fear is justified? If so, what if anything do you think the ravens are or will do to rectify this? Thanks

Answer: I think it's a legitimate concern. Douglas and Hartwell and Baxter were all adept at open-field tackling and pressing the line of scrimmage. I think you raise a real concern. The possibility that Ray Lewis would be more effective in a 4-3 set could rectify this situation along with adding a heftier defensive lineman.

Question: Hi Aaron. I believe you had mentioned that someone from our FO was attempting to visit and evaluate Jamal Lewis last week. Did this happen, and could Jamal's rehab progress (or lack thereof) be a contributing factor in retaining Chester Taylor? Thanks.

Answer: I don't know if they actually headed down to the prison yet. If so, it's not a big deal. They want to be supportive of Jamal and check on his progress. I doubt they have a lot of information about his medical situation other than the examination they did before he was processed into the prison system. Jamal and Musa Smith's injuries were obviously factors in their decision to retain Chester for $3 million.

Question: Aaron Wilson, I was wondering what is the current cap number with the Chester Taylor signing, and whether Chester Taylor's contract could be restructured into a long term deal. Thanks.

Answer: My understanding is they have $10 million underneath the salary cap. They are likely to keep their options open with him and see what happens with Lewis and Smith in terms of health and production this year. I would be surprised if Taylor doesn't leave Baltimore as an unrestricted free agent after next season.

Question: Aaron: using that crystal ball of yours, if you had to guess right now, how do you see Day One of the draft unfolding for the Ravens? I'm projecting Jamaal Brown, OT in Rd. 1, Brandon Browner, CB/S in Rd. 2 and Chris Kemoeatu, OG in Rd. 3.

Answer: Obviously, none of us, including the Ravens, know who they're going to draft. I think they would be happy with this result, but I wouldn't rule out the Ravens thinking defensive line in the first three rounds. All of these players are viable prospects, and I'm sure they will evaluate their merits. Brown is going to be high on a lot of teams' wish lists, but conceivably could be available with the 22nd pick.

Question: Does Will Demps get sad when he sees that his own teams fan want him replaced every year, even though he's started for the past three seasons?

Answer: Interesting question. I think Will tunes out criticism and is much more cognizant of how the team regards him. They paid him a compliment by assigning him the middle tender of $1.43 million, so I think he's secure in his status. Also, this is a confident young man who has a history of not letting other people's opinions affect him negatively, if at all.

Question: Hi Mr. Wilson: on your radio show on Saturday, it sounded like both you and Bruce think the Ravens will either go OL or DL in round 1. Assuming no OL is there, why do you think DL being as our 4 starters are already set and 1st round is a little early for depth...?

Answer: I made this point as they ideally would like to have an impact player on the defensive line. Currently, other than by moving Terrell Suggs to defensive end, none exists on the roster. Certainly not in the interior line. I'm not saying this will definitely happen, just saying not to rule it out. Offensive line is more likely, though.

Question: Hey Aaron once again thanks for your time. Assuming we have the best WR available but also the Best D-lineman available which would we take?

Answer: Defensive line would likely be a higher value at No. 22 than wide out based on most projections.

Question: Aaron, I get the sense the Ravens want a big hitting run stuffing strong safety to replace Demps. Do you think we will draft one and in what round? I would love to get Donte Nicholson from Oklahoma.

Answer: I think the Ravens are all right with Demps for now. This position could wait another year to be addressed. They should have kept Gerome Sapp, but that's 20-20 hindsight.

Question: As always, thanks. Since the team has lost some coaching staff, particularly both coordinators, what will be done to accelerate the learning process of their new systems?

Answer: That's what minicamps and quarterback schools are for, plus the players are watching film at home or visiting with the coaching staff the entire off-season.

Aaron Wilson is the chief writer for RavensInsider.Com He is also the Ravens' reporter for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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