Ravens keeping their draft options open

OWINGS MILLS – If the NFL draft is akin to a gourmet buffet, then the Baltimore Ravens believe they're in a flexible, advantageous position where they don't have to lock into any particular cut of filet mignon or lobster tail.<br><br> The Ravens own the No. 22 overall selection of the first round and have already addressed their most glaring needs through free agency by signing receiver Derrick Mason and cornerback Samari Rolle.

 "The encouraging thing is that we're not sitting here thinking, ‘Oh God, this guy has got to get to 22 or 54, this position has to,'" said Ravens coach Brian Billick, who has the 54th pick of the second round. "It's virtually at almost any position there's someone very palatable at 22, at 54, that you can say, ‘I see this, this would be good, this would add depth.'

"There's a lot of athletes out there, and it seems to be a pretty solid draft from the standpoint that all of the options available to you look pretty good."

The Ravens' free agency efforts don't eliminate Baltimore from drafting another receiver such as Oklahoma's Mark Clayton, South Carolina's Troy Williamson or Alabama-Birmingham's Roddy White or considering a cornerback such as Auburn's Carlos Rogers or possible Georgia safety Thomas Davis.

General manager Ozzie Newsome acknowledged preliminary trade discussions to move up or back, and he's a greater advocate of stockpiling picks by trading backward. The team isn't willing to part with next year's first-round draft pick for any player.

Not even USC receiver Mike Williams, who's likely to be selected shortly after Michigan wideout Braylon Edwards.

"We might be better served to move back and acquire another pick in the second or third round to add another good player to our team," Newsome said. "If we think one of those players that can be a top-notch player in this league starts to slide down the board, I will take the ability to move up and take the player."

The Ravens didn't have a first-round draft pick last year and had to wait several hours until the 51st pick to draft defensive tackle Dwan Edwards.

They don't want to go through that again.

"It was tough to see a lot of good players come off the board," Newsome said. "Now we know we'll at least be able to get one of the top 22 players in this draft."

Newsome said that injuries last season to cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Deion Sanders would motivate him to possibly draft a qualified nickel back early in the draft.

The Ravens didn't rule out drafting another wideout with a high selection one year after drafting injury-plagued Devard Darling in the third round.

"A lot of people have observed that it's a big receiver year," Billick said. "That's a position that's been well documented that we need to address as many ways as we can."

The Ravens, who frequently referenced drafting tight end Todd Heap with the 31st pick in 2001 as well as having linebacker Ray Lewis drop to them 26th in 1996 and safety Ed Reed 20th in 2002, are hoping to have another gift fall to their draft card.

Georgia linebacker Odell Thurman, who has a history of off-field issues, is also on the Ravens' radar.

The Ravens could select intense, ultra-productive Georgia defensive end David Pollack, whom the team has scheduled for a visit.

Pollack is undersized at 6-foot-2, 270 pounds, but could be an ideal situational pass rusher or a 3-4 outside linebacker even though the team plans to shift to a 4-3 alignment.

"We have a specific idea about how to use David that we want to talk with him about," Newsome said.

An offensive tackle prospect like Oklahoma's Jammal Brown, who has already visited the Ravens' training complex, or Washington's Khalif Barnes is a highly viable option to push right tackle Orlando Brown or be a a potential future replacement for perennial All-Pro left tackle Jonathan Ogden.

"With the evolution of free agency, those positions are becoming the positions that you have to pay a lot of money for," Newsome said. "I wouldn't be surprised that in the first or second rounds we don't draft offensive or defensive linemen."

NOTES: Newsome said that trainer Bill Tessendorf, director of player development O.J. Brigance and running backs coach Matt Simon have visited running back Jamal Lewis at the federal prison in Pensacola, Fla. Lewis is recovering from ankle surgery while serving four months for a drug charge. "He's in great spirits," said Newsome, who has spoken twice with Lewis and plans to meet with him after the draft. … Newsome said that running back Musa Smith is recovering well from surgery to repair a broken leg and is walking without crutches or a limp. … Newsome downplayed reports that outside linebacker Peter Boulware is on the trading block or a potential salary-cap casualty. "I think it's all because he was hurt last year," Newsome said. "Peter Boulware is a Baltimore Raven."… The Ravens have contacted the agents for Lewis, Reed and Heap regarding contract extensions. "The agents have a very good understanding that we would like to have those guys back," Newsome said. … The Ravens haven't discussed a trade for Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Corey Simon for two weeks, according to Newsome, whose contract talks with Simon's agent, Roosevelt Barnes, hit an impasse with the two sides millions of dollars apart.

As well as a being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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