Question: With the team's strength and conditioning program starting, which
of last year's rookies look to be hitting the weight room the most? I think one
of the big issues with our draft class last year is that they all lacked the
durability and strength to last a whole season.
If the team moves to a 4-3 as expected, who is currently the favorite to start next to Kelly Gregg at DT? Ma'ake or Dwan?
Out of our 3 NFLEL allocations, who has the strongest chance at making the team, either now or in the near future? Also, can you explain what happened with Josh Buhl?
Aaron Wilson: My understanding about last year's rookie class' progress is that linemen Dwan Edwards and Brian Rimpf are hitting the weights hard, and have made significant gains in the off-season program. The major problem with last year's class other than not having the maturity it takes to contribute as rookies was a lack of opportunity. Injuries at multiple positions reduced depth to a point where the rookies were rarely activated on game days. Plus, the Ravens carried so many extra specialists that it was hard for them to get on the field. This extended to linebacker Roderick Green, too. Maake Kemoeatu is the current favorite to start opposite Kelly Gregg, but I wouldn't rule out Edwards based on his potential and second-round draft status. I wouldn't bank on any of the NFL Europe guys making the final roster, but don't count out Cedric Hilliard.
Question: Hello Aaron. The Texans have recently released Jamie Sharper. Has anyone given you the idea that the Ravens are interested in bringing him back to Baltimore?
Aaron Wilson: Jamie Sharper's agent has indicated that the Ravens have some interest in the former Texans and Baltimore starter. However, they are not overly optimistic about his prospects drying up to the point on the open market where it would make sense financially for Sharper to give them the "hometown discount." I would rate the Cincinnati Bengals, Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars as having a better chance to ultimately sign Sharper. I wouldn't rule out the possibility, but it appears slim at best presently.
Question: Just wondered if you think the Ravens are done in Free Agency? Do you think they will pick up any vets after the Draft?
Aaron Wilson: No, the Ravens aren't done. They are still hopeful of signing free agent linebacker T.J. Slaughter, projecting him as their weakside starter in a revamped 4-3 alignment. They are likely to consider the remaining veteran receivers depending on what happens during the draft. It's far from a finished product.
Question: Other than Kelly Gregg, have the Ravens ever developed any players in NFL Europe who ended up contributing to our team? And do they see any of the four guys sent over this year as having a future with us?
Aaron Wilson: If memory serves me correctly, Damion Cook and Marques Douglas played in NFL Europe. I doubt they are building their depth charts around the NFL Europe crop. This team isn't anywhere close to that desperate. They have a better talent pool, as does the majority of the league, to need the NFL Europe allocations to contribute.
Question: Are the Ravens still interested in Ike Hilliard or are they waiting until after the draft or June 1st?
Aaron Wilson: The Ravens, particularly offensive coordinator Jim Fassel, have some interest in Ike Hilliard. His agent told me that Hilliard isn't in a rush to sign with any team and is likely to decide on a team after the draft. They've only had preliminary discussions regarding Baltimore. Stay tuned to the draft because it could alleviate the need for a stopgap veteran.
Question: What do you think the Ravens will do about their nickel situation? Deion is 38, and was frequently injured. We don't know what Dale can do at his age. And Walls and Fuller (who are FA's) obviously aren't good enough. Are the Ravens looking to fill this void early in the draft or pickup a guy like a Nick Harper or a Mario Edwards?
Aaron Wilson: They've extended multiple invitations to Deion Sanders to return, and have declared that they still have rights to Dale Carter. They are likely to draft a cornerback as this is a highly regarded crop of rookie defensive backs. I wouldn't rule out some combination of both scenarios: Sanders mulling a potential return even at his advanced age and a young player with upside.
Question: To piggy-back, do they really think they can rely on Dale Carter after he hasn't been on the field in a year-and-a-half?
Aaron Wilson: Honestly, he didn't look that great at minicamps before his lung clot developed. They're just keeping their options open. Obviously, he's far from a logical answer for several reasons: age, health, a lengthy history of off-field issues.
Question: Aaron- What exactly is Fassel doing to "improve" this offense. Is the playbook being changed, or are they adding to it, or will it just be different playcalling? Also, what are the updates on Slaughter, since the Sun's last one was on Monday? Are we still interested or is he negotiating with a few teams?
Aaron Wilson: Jim Fassel is more aggressive than Matt Cavanaugh. He's also more experienced and skilled at developing quarterbacks. Keep in mind his track record with getting top-end production out of his tailbacks and tight ends, two obvious strengths for Baltimore with Jamal Lewis and Todd Heap. As far as Slaughter, there's really nothing to update. They have been negotiating with his agent. There's no big rush to complete the deal. It should have been completed by now, but hasn't. What that tells me is this: He's looking for more money than the Ravens have offered. There's little market for his services, so why should they raise their offer significantly. It's called leverage. He doesn't have that much. Plus, the Ravens could always draft a linebacker, decide to get involved with Jamie Sharper or wait until Slaughter realizes that this is the only prime starting opportunity that he's in line for. I wouldn't get too worried about this situation.
Question: Aaron thanks for doing this! But anyway, what's the situation on Gilbert Brown? Are the Ravens interested in him? If so, when will they sign him and for how much? If not, will we trade a DT in the draft? What round? Again, thanks a lot...you do a GREAT job! Thanks,
Aaron Wilson: The Ravens denied any interest in Gilbert Brown. File this one under BR: baseless rumor. He's overweight and hasn't played football in over a year. Why would this guy be an upgrade over what they currently have? Just because he's hefty doesn't mean he can still play. They will look at defensive linemen in the draft. Also, remember they assigned the middle tender to Maake Kemoeatu and drafted Dwan Edwards in the second round a year ago. They've made investments. Now is the time to find out if those were shrewd moves or misguided.
Question: Thanks again for your time Aaron. Jamal Lewis has a history of injury problems and off-the-field concerns, Chester Taylor is listed as an unrestricted free agent next off-season, Musa Smith sunk in the draft because of an injury history, and Jamel White has signed a contract with the Detroit Lions. How likely is it that the Ravens invest in a running back, and have you heard anything about players like Darren Sproles of Kansas State or the also injury prone Frank Gore of Miami.
Aaron Wilson: Your analysis of the running back situation is accurate. They could definitely use a running back influx and are likely to draft one at some point. Not sure that Darren Sproles would add much other than pass-catching or kick returns. Frank Gore is a pretty good all-around runner, but his health is a red flag. It's a deep running back draft, so they have options.
Question: Hi Aaron, Thanks for your time. What is the deal with Peter Boulware? Have you seen him recently and how is his health? That being said, I heard on wbal that the Ravens are very interested in LB Jamie Sharper and even saw that we tried to trade for him. Is this far fetched or is there any truth to that and how interested are we?
Aaron Wilson: I haven't seen Boulware since the season ended. He usually spends the off-season in Florida where he owns a car dealership. The Ravens are interested in Jamie Sharper, but are unlikely to pay as much as other franchises. If his price drops, they would likely take advantage and try to sign him. I wouldn't count on it happening, though.
Question: Thanks as always for your hard work and insight into the Ravens goings on and to take time to answer our questions. As far as the additions the Ravens have made, and looking at our roster today, if Boller breaks out this year according to plan, where do you see the Ravens after 16 games? Are they playoff contenders? Super Bowl contenders? What is the expectation of Billick and staff? Do they see us as contenders? (Last season was a big disappointment after the expectations were so high). If not a playoff contender, what changes and or additions need to be made to be considered as such?
Aaron Wilson: The Ravens appear to be viable playoff contenders. Once you're in the tournament, so to speak, anything can happen. However, I don't think they are likely to reach the Super Bowl at this point. The Ravens are hopeful of a playoff run, but are realistic about the competitiveness of the AFC North division and, of course, the presence of the New England Patriots.
Question: I saw the Ravens attended Maurice Clarett's workout. Are the Ravens really interested in drafting another RB?
Aaron Wilson: Yes, the Ravens could use some depth based on Jamal Lewis' injury history, Musa Smith's broken leg and Chester Taylor being on borrowed time in Baltimore.
Question: Aaron, Is their any possibility that instead of resigning TJ Slaughter, we sign Jamie Sharper and move Adalius Thomas down to the defensive end position? Comparing AD's size to a John Abraham or a Jason Taylor it would seem like a good fit. Not to mention Boulware, Ray, and Sharper are a proven championship winning core.
Aaron Wilson: It's unlikely that Adalius Thomas will move back to defensive end. He's better off at linebacker at this point, especially with Peter Boulware's recent injury problems.
Question: Aaron, are the Ravens looking at drafting a kicker in this draft, and who do you see as possible kicking prospects that we could look at? Thanks.
Aaron Wilson: They are unlikely to draft a kicker. Everyone likes Mike Nugent from Ohio State, and some team will draft him higher than they should because they need a kicker much worse than the Ravens who are solid with Matt Stover.
Question: Do the Ravens view Tony Pashos as having a future as a starter with this club?
Aaron Wilson: I highly doubt it. Let's see if the weight he has lost will grant him the quickness he needs to improve in pass protection.
Question: Thanks for your time Aaron: In my opinion, one thing that the Ravens really lacked last season was a defensive back who could really come up on the run and make a RB pay. I know Ed Reed can time his blitzes well, but we don't have a safety really who can really hit. If a Thomas Davis is sitting on the board at 22 or an Ernest Shazor in round 3, do you see the Ravens as possibly using a pick to take one of these guys?
Aaron Wilson: I doubt they will use their first pick on a safety, but your idea is worthwhile as far as a hard-hitting, in-the-box type at some point in the draft. Will Demps is likely only going to be starting for one more year as he'll be an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Question: Thanks for your insights, Aaron. Now that the Ravens are going to be using the "46" defense at times, how does this match up to the defense's strengths -- in particular Ed Reed? It seems like he will need to be blitzing a lot more frequently as a result -- is that his strong suit?
Aaron Wilson: Ed Reed is highly adept at timing his blitzes and harassing quarterbacks.
Question: Aaron, with this getting to be an older team, and getting so little from last years draft, this year's draft is going to be VERY important.
What positions do you see as the most important...we know WR, RT are high on the list, but I would think just about every position will be drafted over the 2 days except perhaps TE. What positions do you think the team has highlighted as important, and what are some names at OLB they may be looking at...I really like Kevin Burnett from Tennessee and Odell Thurman from Georgia.
Aaron Wilson: Right tackle, defensive line, wide receiver and linebacker are all definite areas of need and likely to be high on the Ravens' list. A lot of teams are enamored of those two SEC linebackers and will act accordingly on acquiring them.
Question: Aaron, the Ravens always seem to have a succession plan in place for their coaches...i.e. Nolan was brought in to replace Marvin Lewis, Rex Ryan was set to replace to Nolan, etc. Who on the staff (if anyone) would be looked at as a successor to Ryan if he were to leave for a head coaching job? Also, depth looks to be a real issue on the offensive line. I realize they want to fill at least one or two of those spots with draft choices, but as of right now, Brian Rimpf is the most experienced backup and that can't be too comforting to them. Are they going to sign any more veterans to help out with depth on the line (ala what Carlisle would have done)? Is the return of Ethan Brooks a possibility?
Aaron Wilson: Good question as far as succession. Secondary coach Johnnie Lynn has coordinator experience, but didn't fare too well with the Giants in that role. I think linebackers coach Jeff FitzGerald has serious potential. They are likely to continue to monitor a thin market and hope that it improves. I wouldn't completely rule out Brooks' return, but the lack of interest from the Ravens and other teams is pretty telling on what people think about him. He has gotten cursory interest from the Pittsburgh Steelers hardly worth noting.
Question: Thank you from all of us. With Billick, Fassel, and Neuheisel all whispering in Kyle Boller's ear, has there been any agreement or discussion about who gets to whisper when? I could foresee some issues if TOO much advice is given.
Aaron Wilson: Kyle Boller acknowledged after the season that he might have received too much advice last season. This time, I believe Fassel's insight will override others' input and be most advantageous to Boller's development now that he's a full-time member of the staff with coordinator duties.
Question: Aaron, thanks for your time and insights. There's been a lot of hype regarding Matt Jones. Do you think the Ravens might pick him up?
Aaron Wilson: I doubt they would use their first or second pick to draft him. Someone else is likely to draft him based on his considerable potential above where Baltimore would likely rate him as worthy of heavy consideration. He's a big-time project who should be investigated thoroughly.
Question: Aaron, on a scale of 1-10, rate what you believe to be the front office's confidence in its pre-draft personnel at the following positions: a) defensive tackle, b) right offensive tackle, c) nickleback, d) #2 receiver, e) #2 quarterback.
Aaron Wilson: Defensive tackle: 6.3; Right offensive tackle: 5.5; Nickel back: 3; No. 2 wideout: 5; No. 2 quarterback: 6.8. Keep in mind that I'm not privy to the Ravens' internal ratings, but this level of confidence for each respective personnel grouping would appear logical.
Thanks for all your questions and I look forward to the next one.
As well as a being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland. If you are reading this article via a news portal, you can find the original on RavensInsider.Com URL:http://www.ravensinsider.com