Ravens taking a long look at offensive tackles

OWINGS MILLS – Don't be surprised if the Baltimore Ravens' top draft pick turns out to be a mammoth offensive tackle.<br><br> The Ravens could be in the market for a mobile blocker that weighs in excess of 300 pounds with enough quickness to counter pass rushers' athleticism.

Although it has been nine years since the Ravens drafted perennial All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden in the first round, that dormancy could change this year.

Because of future and perhaps immediate need, the reality of NFL economics and solid value at the position, the Ravens might draft a tackle with the No. 22 overall pick of the first round.

The Ravens have only used first-day selections on offensive lineman twice: Ogden (fourth overall in 1996) and center Casey Rabach (third round, 2001).

"That could change this year very quickly," Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "I definitely can say based on where our team is that we need a good influx of young offensive linemen and we could get some on the first day of the draft."

Ideally, Baltimore would obtain a tackle with sufficient ability and maturity to press right tackle Orlando Brown, 34, for a starting job and have enough potential and versatility to eventually replace Ogden, 30, when he retires.

Ogden is entering his 10th season after eight trips to the Pro Bowl. Newsome also noted how expensive signing a starting tackles tends to be in free agency.

The Ravens would likely give serious consideration to Florida State's Alex Barron, Washington's Khalif Barnes and Oklahoma's Jammal Brown.

Only the 6-foot-7, 322-pound Barron is considered a major long shot to last long enough for Baltimore to have an opportunity to draft him.

Brown has visited the Ravens' training complex, and NFL scouts have compliments his skills and an aggressive temperament that isn't dissimilar to Barnes. Both are converted defensive linemen.

"All three of those guys are probably first-round talents and would help our team," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "They would help our depth and, eventually, all three guys would probably start for us. Probably, at some point, at right tackle.

"You hope when J.O. retires -- God, forbid, I hope it's another 10 years -- but at some point move over to the left side."

Barron is the tallest of the best prospects and extremely mobile for his size with a 4.90 clocking in the 40-yard dash. He has battled injuries and some question his intensity.

Brown was recruited as a defensive lineman and switched sides after his freshman year.

He considered transferring to Miami or Tennessee when Oklahoma recruited future Chicago Bears first-round draft pick Tommie Harris, but changed his mind.

Brown didn't allow a sack as a senior and won the Outland Trophy as the nation's top interior lineman. The 6-5, 315-pounder led the Sooners with 130 knockdown blocks and didn't surrender a quarterback hurry all season.

"Nobody touched my quarterback," Brown said at the scouting combine.

Barnes was switched from defense to offense by former Washington coach Rick Neuheisel, the new Ravens' quarterbacks coach.

Barnes wanted to be the next Terrell Suggs. However, he was ultimately convinced by the coaching staff that he was a natural tackle.

"Barnes is a nasty player who has a defensive mentality," said Gil Brandt, the former Dallas Cowboys personnel executive who now rates players for the NFL.

Barnes is 13 pounds lighter than Brown at 302, exactly the same height and runs nearly as fast as Barron with a 4.91 clocking.

"Both guys are very good players and they're both physically strong," DeCosta said. "Jammal Brown has been extremely consistent and is physically tough. He may have the potential, possibly, to play left tackle.

"Khalif Barnes is a very good athlete, probably a little bit better athlete than Jammal Brown and he plays left tackle. In some people's eyes, that gives him a little bit better value. From a playing standpoint, they grade out very, very closely."

NOTE: The Ravens will hold their annual Spring Football Festival on Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Players scheduled to attend include safety Ed Reed, cornerback Chris McAlister, cornerback Samari Rolle, wide receiver Derrick Mason and offensive guard Keydrick Vincent. For ticket information, call 410-261-7283.

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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