Ravens Insider Chat Transcript

Last evening we fired up the chat room and had a full room asking Ravens Insider writer Aaron Wilson the tough questions about free agency, Kerry Collins, Kyle Boller and Ray Lewis. Chats will be held weekly and will generally be for Ravens Insiders subscribers only. If you like what you read here, consider supporting us with a subscription. Enjoy.

Aaron Wilson: Hello, everyone. I'm ready for your questions, so let's get started.

Question: With Vince coming in next week, have the Ravens attempted to setup any other visits?

Aaron Wilson: The Ravens typically don't disclose their top 20 visits. In this case since Major Adams, Vince Young's agent, made it public when he told me this morning and other media outlets, they were willing to confirm his visit. The Ravens typically only bring in players they are serious about possibly drafting or prospects with character or medical issues. Don't be surprised to see several players that Baltimore has been linked to in mock drafts possibly arrive at the Owings Mills training complex, including Brodrick Bunkley, the defensive lineman from Florida State. The Ravens will also bring in potential undrafted free agents that they like to gain an edge in recruiting them after the seventh round is over. As more of the visits become known to me, I will attempt to confirm them on Ravens Insider and in the Carroll County Times and let you know.

Question: Aaron - do you think the ravens could pick up v. young in this years draft? do you think he will fall to 13 or the ravens will move up?

Aaron Wilson: I doubt that Vince Young will be available at the 13th overall selection. It's much more likely that he'll be gone by the time the Oakland Raiders draft (No. 7 overall). The Ravens are performing their due diligence just in case Vince Young slides, which appears much less likely after a solid workout yesterday on the University of Texas campus. It's a much more likely scenario that Baltimore winds up with Kerry Collins plus another first-day quarterback prospect for a long-range plan such as Brodie Croyle or Charlie Whitehurst. The Ravens are aware of their quarterback problem. They just don't feel a great sense of urgency to address it at the moment. Keep in mind that Kerry Collins no longer even has the leverage of returning to the Oakland Raiders. There's an extremely limited market for his services. That's why he needs Baltimore more than it needs him. With Aaron Brooks in Oakland with a two-year, $8 million contract, Collins no longer has that option and I doubt the Arizona Cardinals are serious about him. It's more likely a case of his agent, David Dunn, trying to drum up interest.

Question: There was a lot of talk last year about Brian Billick losing the locker room. Was this greatly exaggerated, or was there some truth to this? Does Brian have the players' respect?

Aaron Wilson: In my opinion, there is a faction of veteran players who have been listening to Brian Billick's message for years and when things go south, they tend to tune him out. I believe Brian Billick does have the majority of the players' respect. On any football team, there is never a complete unanimous feeling of respect for the head coach. That said, by respect, I mean complete and total support. Do players blatantly talk back to Billick or disregard his orders? Of course not. However, there is a group of prominent players who don't always agree with his management style and I think a lack of complete support can occasionally cause friction in the locker room. The situation despite the losing record has improved from the previous season.

Question: Aaron, what are the odds that Steve McNair will be released? do the Ravens have all their eggs in one basket here?

Aaron Wilson: Depending on what happens in the draft, there's a slim possibility that Steve McNair could be released by the Titans if he declines to restructure his $23.46 million salary cap figure. However, the Titans are operating under a win-now mandate from owner Bud Adams. If they don't win this season, Jeff Fisher or Floyd Reese could be fired. McNair represents their best chance to win right now. Why would the Titans sign a 35-year-old Pro Bowl center in Kevin Mawae, or Chris Hope, David Thornton and David Givens just to play a rookie quarterback. McNair is much more likely to either play under his current contract or restructure than be cut by Tennessee and surface in Baltimore. They don't have all their ""eggs"" in McNair's basket. The Ravens just don't have to do anything right now. Their hand isn't being forced. They can keep their options open and still get a quarterback.

Question: What round would Croyle or Whitehurst be taken in? also, do u know what/how many compesatory picks we have?

Aaron Wilson: I doubt that either Croyle or Whitehurst would go before the third round. In regards to compensatory selections, expect some decent picks in exchange for losing Gary Baxter and other free agents last offseason. They may announce the compensatory selections by next week.

Question: Aaron, how is Cody progressing? how much will he play this year? any news about Chad Williams?

Aaron Wilson: Dan Cody is progressing really well. He's regaining strength in the knee and has put on a lot of upper body strength. He's an extremely hard worker, as billed when they drafted him out of Oklahoma. This is a hard-nosed, talented pass rusher whom I consider to be the X-factor on this year's defense. Cody should be the situational pass rusher and operate at both linebacker and rush end. Chad Williams' agent told me today that there's nothing imminent with him returning to Baltimore, but felt like it was a possibility that he would get a chance to come back because of his value as a dime back and for special teams.

Question: I don't know if anyone asked this yet or not, but why sign Lewis and Anderson? are there plans to trade one? also what is the news on trading Ray Lewis?

Aaron Wilson: I really doubt they will execute any trades for Ray Lewis or Jamal Lewis. The reason they have two backs is to push Jamal Lewis and try to wear down defenses. It's a strategy that has been used successfully against the Ravens' smallish defensive front seven. It's an idea worth copying. A truly novel concept: beat the other team into submission. We'll see if they have the offensive line to pull it off.

Question: are we going to do right by Peter the great and give him a front office gig?

Aaron Wilson: It's possible. Peter Boulware is a great influence on younger players and a positive example of what community involvement, philanthropy and having a business plan for life after football is all about. Boulware is set with his car dealerships in Florida. I would imagine they would try to do something to keep him around, although a full-time position in community relations or player development is difficult to snap your fingers and create. Keep in mind that Kenny Abrams and O.J. Brigance already do a great job in those areas, but I'm sure Peter Boulware would be a great asset in either way or by continuing to counsel players at Bible study, etc..

Question: Aaron, who are the Ravens looking at bring in to Punt?

Aaron Wilson: As far as punter, they have talked with the agent for Jason Baker, who left St. Louis without a contract, but no deal is imminent. Sean Landeta is another possibility.

Question: Is it possible we would trade back for an additional draft pick(s)? Which offensive lineman are we scouting, if any?

Aaron Wilson: Ozzie Newsome is almost always interested in trading back for extra picks. In this case, however, it's unlikely to happen. Teams don't like throwing away their draft picks as a general rule for the No. 13 slot. The Ravens have spent some time looking at Davin Joseph, Rob Mangold, Charles Spencer, Eric Winston, Winston Justice and Jonathan Scott, among several others. They like the depth of this offensive line class, so much that they don't feel a need to draft a blocker in the first round. There's a large gap between Ferguson and the rest of the pack.

Question: Is there any specific guy that the Ravens are eyeing in the first round? Is Cryole their #1 candiate for QB in the later rounds?

Aaron Wilson: They like Croyle a lot, but they don't expect him to be around past the first day. Besides injuries and a lack of prototypical size, Croyle is a really nice prospect, especially in terms of his accuracy, leadership and intangibles.

The agent for Dirk Johnson, the Eagles' restricted free agent, has been calling Baltimore to pitch his client, but the interest isn't reciprocal at this point. The Ravens are keeping their options open in the first round, but they would be more than pleased if Texas safety Mike Huff or Oregon defensive lineman Haloti Ngata were available at No. 13.

Question: Aaron, is Flynn expected to be the starting C this year, and is Jason Brown training hard to lose a few this offseason? Is Ogden training? Any big names appearing at our offseason conditioning program? What FAs has Balt expressed interest in, except Collins

Aaron Wilson: Mike Flynn will enter camp as the starter and it's my understanding from talking to him and his agent that he's still in their plans. His knees bothered him a lot last year and he didn't arrive in great condition, much like Edwin Mulitalo.

Jason Brown, according to team officials, has been working hard this offseason and should be a strong contender for playing time in the interior line.

Jonathan Ogden is having a much better offseason than last year.

The offseason conditioning program hasn't formally started. A lot of the players are lifting at the complex or at the nearby Gold's Gym, including Adalius Thomas. Jamal Lewis, Daniel Wilcox and Chester Taylor have been working out together in Atlanta.

Among the free agents Baltimore spoke with and didn't sign: Ted Washington, Grady Jackson, Tony Weaver, Maake Kemoeatu, Chester Taylor, Dave Zastudil, David Tyree, John Gilmore and Brian Griese. Keep in mind that only Weaver, Kemoeatu, Taylor and Zastudil were offered contracts and Washington didn't like the Ravens' offer enough to turn down the Cleveland Browns. They have been talking with Jason Baker and Marcus Wilkins.

Question: Where is the team cap wise? are they planning on doing any restructures? have there been any unmet incentives from last year that will dump into this year

Aaron Wilson: The Ravens are about $5 million under the cap by my calculations. Keep in mind, we don't have every bonus figure available. Yesterday, the Ravens signed Gary Stills for three years, $2.6 million and Corey Ivy for three years, $2.2 million, which means small cap figures. Even having all of the restricted tender offers, exclusive rights free agent numbers and the rest of the contracts they've done, it's hard to be precise.

For example, Dan Wilcox's contract averages $900,000 per year. He received a bonus between $300,000 and $400,000.

We get as much financial information as we can from agents and NFL Players Association figures, but it would be better obviously if the team just disclosed this information. They don't want to because they don't want to potentially lose any competitive advantage even though every team can monitor these figures through the NFL PA and management council.

In my opinion, NFL teams already feel that too much financial information makes it into the public arena. They're not inclined to hand out any more than they are required to publicly, which is not at all.

We get a lot more financial info than some other NFL cities such as New England where Bill Belichick rules with an iron fist.

Question: Aaron, do you think the team will fill any more starting spots through UFA or wait for the draft and how sold is the organization on Boller really?

Aaron Wilson: I think the Ravens still have an interest in Kerry Collins. There's just no rush to sign him. Keep in mind the first veterans minicamp isn't until after the draft. Why do they need to sign him now?

Question: If the Ravens were to move up in the 1st round, would it only be for the opportunity to draft Vince Young, or would they move up a few spots to take Michael Huff, also? The Ravens haven't addressed the void left by Will Demps, and I was hoping it might be because they're eyeing up Michael Huff.

Aaron Wilson: They do like Mike Huff a lot, and he would be worth moving up for. If the opportunity presents itself, Ozzie Newsome would definitely consider swapping with a few teams. Keep in mind that Cleveland is looking for defensive linemen and linebackers and has addressed safety last year with Brodney Pool and felt comfortable enough to trade Chris Crocker to Atlanta. I wouldn't rule out a possible slide by Mike Huff, but I wouldn't count on it. It's more likely that Bunkley or Greenway or Ernie Sims is sitting there or Winston Justice or Mathias Kiwanuka.

Question: Aaron,To build on the Kerry Collins discussion, what exactly is it that they see in him. When watching his games last year, I saw an aging quarterback with zilch for mobility, an erroding arm, poor decision making, who has a propensity for costly turnovers and is ten games under .500 from his Super Bowl season to present (a generous time frame).  Is the door really closed when it comes to Schaub and possible Garrard? At least those two have some long-term upside for us to work with.

Aaron Wilson: Jim Fassel is a proponent of Kerry Collins because of their track record together in New York. Collins' numbers from last season other than his 4-12 record as a starter are more than acceptable by the Ravens' low quartebrack standard. If I was to tell you that your starting quarterback would pass for 3,759 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, would you be satisfied? Of course, you would be. You can't scapegoat Collins for everything that went wrong in Oakland. Norv Turner, Randy Moss and Al Davis are responsible for the Raiders' mess as well.

Question: Hey Aaron!!! I was wondering if the Ravens would have any interested in John Runyan. A newspaper in Philly a couple of days ago said that the Ravens could be one of the teams he would be interested in playing for since its closer to his home in New Jersey. What are your thoughts on that? He would be a huge upgrade for the OT position.

Aaron Wilson: Jon Runyan is more likely to join the Jets than the Ravens. There's no contact at all between Runyan and Baltimore at this point. Don't rule it out completely since he would like to remain close to Philadelphia and his home in New Jersey.

Question: Aaron, how far along is Ray Lewis in his recovery from his thigh surgery he had back in November. I think he is going to miss mini camps, but what about training camp? Also, what types of off-season work-outs has Ray done differently this off-season? Thanks

Aaron Wilson: Ray Lewis doesn't speak with the local media and he rarely communicates with the Ravens, too. Ray indicated at the Pro Bowl, where he was campaigning for a job elsewhere, that he would miss all the minicamps. He said he had at least three more months of rehab to go.

We have no contact with Ray Lewis nor do we monitor his offseason workouts. He is an island unto himself as far as the Baltimore media. If Ray Lewis has something to say, then I'm all ears. Until he changes his stance and begins speaking again, there's nothing to report other than second-hand from the team. At this point, there's no new information beyond the grumblings about his contract and the promise his agent, David Dunn, made about being able to get him a new deal if he fired Roosevelt Barnes and Eugene Parker. It was poor advice as it's definitely untrue.

Ray Lewis is due $5.5 million in 2006, $6.5 million in 2007 and $6.5 million in 2008 when his contract will expire. I'm not sure why he thinks he would be due a new contract considering the fact that he received a landmark $19 million bonus in 2002 as part of a $50 million contract. I'm of the opinion that no linebacker outside of perhaps Lawrence Taylor in his prime is worth that kind of money.

Ray Lewis is looking more and more mortal, and that became painfully obvious in 2003 in a Monday night game against Kansas City in Baltimore.

Since Ray Lewis' shoulders aren't what they used to be, he's become more and more susceptible to inside runs and his lack of prototypical size and strength makes it harder for him to take on the fullback and the center.

The best-case scenario is that Ray Lewis comes to terms with the fact that he is fortunate to be earning what he's making and get himself healthy and productive again. If that happens, maybe and I stress maybe Baltimore would look at convering some of his base salary into a signing bonus. There's no pressing reason for Baltimore to do so, though, no matter how much Ray Lewis complains.

He's not going to win this one. So, he's better off accepting that fact and returning to his Pro Bowl form. That will do a lot to ease the friction of a messy period where he essentially left the team late in the season to have this hamstring procedure with his own doctors then went to a bowl game after the team was under the impression that he wasn't supposed to be traveling at all for supposed fear of infection.

Bottom line: Ray Lewis has some fences to mend and the best way to do that is probably to just say little and let his play do the talking.

Guys, thanks for all your questions. Hopefully, we can do this again soon.



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