Insider Q&A with Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson answers all the relevant questions for our subscriber base here on RavensInsider. Lots of talk about AD, Ray Lewis, Jamal Lewis and some questions about the Combine. Look for a subscriber Q&A each week in the RI Club Level on the message boards with a new one starting today.

Question: Aaron, Thanks for your time. There seems to have been multiple reports from the Senior Bowl stating the Ravens have spent a good amount of time with, and have shown a ton of interest in Linebacker D'Quell Jackson. Do you think it's a strong possibility we take him if he falls to us in Round 2? He seems to be the type of player that can be a differance maker a some point.

Answer: The Baltimore Ravens, along with several other NFL franchises, would be ecstatic with D'Quell Jackson as a second-round draft pick. He's a quick, hard-striking linebacker who lacks ideal size but has strong instincts and movement. I liken him to New York Jets linebacker Jonathan Vilma in many respects, although even smaller in frame than Vilma. He could even go toward the end of the first round.

Question: Aaron, I cannot understand why Devard Darling is still on the Ravens team.....they do not play him at WR and he generally does not make tackles on special teams. IMHO he is a 3rd round bust. When are the Ravens going to bite the bullet and admit he was a mistake? I cannot see allowing him to occupy a valuable roster spot yet again.......

Answer: NFL teams tend to be reluctant to admit a mistake and fire a young player too soon, particularly a third-round draft pick like Devard Darling. What if he developed all of a sudden although it doesn't seem like he's on the verge of a breakthrough? Darling will be on thin ice in training camp along with Clarence Moore, whose play slipped markedly last season after a promising rookie campaign. You're right in your assessment of his lack of contribution. He has been somewhat injury prone and also a tad raw in his overall development. This will be his second wide receivers coach in three seasons, which doesn't help matters. Mike Johnson will need to take a different approach to get Darling's career kickstarted. Otherwise, Darling's tenure in Baltimore will end soon enough. Not that it mitigates the lack of production, but Darling is an extremly nice and hard-working young man. It just hasn't traslated into success in his case.

Question: Any word on them making overtures about re-signing Adalius Thomas? Or will they wait until after the draft (and a new CBA hopefully) to address AD? Any new word on deals for Weaver, Scott or Kemo?

Answer: Adalius Thomas will be a major priority for the team, albeit a somewhat surprising one. Even the team was not expecting his breakthrough season. That could change their outlook on signing him after drafting Dan Cody last spring. I think Thomas' unresolved situation will remain unresolved going into the season and will wait until after next season. It would be hard for the team to part ways with a popular, outstanding athlete. They'll do what they can to retain him in my opinion. As far as Tony Weaver, I spoke with him recently and he said he wasn't sure what would happen with him. He acknowledged that there could be a lot of intriguing offers in free agency. He's inclined to test free agency and see what the market bears. That said, he loves it in Baltimore and would hate to leave. The Ravens are definitely interested in re-signing Maake Kemoeatu and Bart Scott. Kemoeatu is an even higher priority than Scott, though. The team is trying to bring back punter Dave Zastudil as well along with running back Chester Taylor.

Question:Aaron, thanks again for your time and effort in answering our questions. This week I am wondering what some of the other players on the Ravens are thinking in the midst of this whole Ray Lewis thing. I mean it would seem to me this whole "give me a new contract or trade me thing" can't be good for the teams already fragile chemistry. Any thoughts?

Answer: The players I spoke with preferred not to comment on the record and said it's an unfortunate situation and added that they try to stay out of other players' disputes with management. That said, a few people in the organization told me that chemistry was great on defense during Ray Lewis' absence. They didn't rip Ray Lewis per se, but did go out of their way to praise Adalius Thomas' leadership and the chemistry and communication the defense enjoyed during the second half of the season. They're proud they finished fifth in total defense despite not having Ray Lewis and Ed Reed for extended periods. This staredown between Ray Lewis and the Ravens can't last forever. Something will eventually give, and it's my expectation that Lewis can't win this fight. Not for the money he's seeking and definitely not in the court of public opinion. It's a shame things have degenerated so rapidly. Keep in mind he's under contract and the team has all the leverage.

Question: Aaron: Thanks for taking time to reply to our questions. It appears that the Ravens are "boxed in" as far as the cap goes. What I mean by that is they can only make one major move in F/A and still sign their own guys.
I assume that you based your Saturday comments about the offensive line, that they will make that move on what position? RB, QB, RT, C?

Answer: The Baltimore Ravens are estimated to be $10 million underneath the salary cap, although Pro Football Weekly had a report at $16 million based on a talk with another team's salary cap expert. They are inclined toward one major signing, perhaps two. Remember, they need a quarterback and a running back. They are likely to try to retain nose guard Maake Kemoeatu, running back Chester Taylor and punter Dave Zastudil and possibly linebacker Bart Scott. That costs a significant amount of money. It's unlikely that the team will be able to retain all of its defensive starters who are free agents.

As far as the offensive line, there are no current plans to cut anyone or make a huge pursuit of a thin offensive line class. Remember, LeCharles Bentley will cost an exorbitant amount as would transitioned Seattle guard Steve Hutchinson. Jason Fabini is likely to wind up in Dallas. I think the Ravens would do well to consider Jon Runyan or possible Scott Gragg. But they are comfortable to an extent with Tony Pashos. The team would like to see this line mature together while bolstering it with a few key additions. I doubt they make major changes this offseason on the line, but remember things can change quickly depending on the marketplace.

Question: So, now that the question about whether or not they would franchise Jamal has been answered, the obvious question is what now at the running back position? The No. 13 pick? Alexander or James? A second tier vet ala Foster or even Chester Taylor? Jamal, if he doesn't get the type of deal he thinks he can on the market? A combination of the above?
Also, now that Brees will very likely hit the market, will Newsome make a run at him? What about Culpepper? What's their interest with him?

Answer: I think it will be a combination of a veteran like Chester Taylor and a rookie runner. I think the team and Jamal Lewis have moved on for the most part. I doubt the Ravens try to sign Drew Brees and while interested in Daunte Culpepper, he might not become a free agent. The Vikings are trying to work something out with Culpepper and mend an icy relationship. Stay tuned on that front.

Question: I didn't get a chance to listen to your show today, but it is being reported that the offensive line will stand as is. My question to you is this: exactly who is making this assessment and with what input? Is this a coaching decision or is this being called by Ozzie?

Answer: Ozzie Newsome makes all of the personnel decisions in conjunction with owner Steve Bisciotti and the coaching staff, but Newsome has final say authority on all personnel choices. He is the top authority on these matters.

Question: Now with Jamal on the road of free agency, is there a chance that talks with Chester could escalate? Could this be a sign to Chester that maybe it will be his show next year with a rookie like White behind him? Is so this would give us an exciting different look wouldn't be one dimensional.

Answer: There's a good chance the Ravens will make a strong effort to try to sign Chester Taylor, who's amenable to listening to their sales pitch. I think there's a strong chance that scenario could unfold. Having Taylor and another runner in the fold could make the offense less predictable and increase the chances to throw out of the backfield, which wasn't Jamal Lewis' strong suit.

Aaron Wilson writes for and the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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