Ravens' quarterback situation still unsettled

OWINGS MILLS -- In the quarterback-deficient realm of the Baltimore Ravens, it's never long before the question is broached to coach Brian Billick. Who's going to be throwing the football for the Ravens this fall?

It's a tough question for Billick to answer because the quarterback issue remains a fluid situation.

The Ravens began and ended last season starting Kyle Boller, who has struggled with injuries, consistency and decision-making for three years. That's why Billick declined to make a commitment to the 2003 first-round draft pick after the season.

And that's why Billick's stance was essentially unaltered when asked about Boller at the NFL owners meetings this week in Orlando, Fla. He prefaced his answer by noting how Bill Walsh once told him if a quarterback isn't giving him hope after 32 games then he would cut his losses and move on.

"It comes back to, 'Have you seen enough?'" Billick told reporters at an AFC coaches' breakfast. "Yeah, in my opinion, I've seen enough to think Kyle is going to be pretty good. How good? Do you not look at other options? Of course not."

Now, the Ravens are faced with a few different quarterback scenarios following a 6-10 campaign.

They can try to create competition for Boller with a veteran such as Kerry Collins, who has a background with offensive coordinator Jim Fassel and has expressed interest in joining the Ravens. The Miami Dolphins are another potential destination for Collins.

Or the Ravens can wait for an unquestioned starter such as Steve McNair if the Tennessee Titans opt to release him after the draft. McNair has an unwieldy $23.46 salary cap figure, but is liable to be asked to restructure his contract and be given an opportunity to remain the starter even if the team drafts a quarterback.

Billick alluded to that option when he pointed out that not all of the quarterback scenarios have materialized yet.
The Cincinnati Bengals and Dolphins are considered the leaders for Detroit Lions bust Joey Harrington, although Baltimore has reported held preliminary trade discussions with Lions general manager Matt Millen.

Billick acknowledged injury concerns prompted the Ravens to not pursue Daunte Culpepper (knee) or Drew Brees (shoulder).

"I looked at them hard and long, but it was certainly a factor," Billick said.

Boller passed for 1,799 yards last season with 11 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for a 71.8 passer rating, missing seven starts with a toe injury.

In consecutive wins over the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings, Boller posted 100 quarterback ratings and passed for a combined total of 542 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. However, he threw two interceptions in the red zone and lost an inexplicable fumble in a loss to the Denver Broncos. He committed three turnovers in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, starting the game 4-for-15 for 37 yards.

"We feel good about where Kyle is right now," said Billick, who compared him to Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler. "We still have a ways to go."

It's unlikely that University of Texas quarterback Vince Young will be available when the Ravens are on the clock with the 13th overall pick. Just in case, he's scheduled for an April 3 visit at the team's training complex.

Young is an outstanding athlete who led the Longhorns to the national title over USC in the Rose Bowl, but has drawn criticism for his low score on the Wonderlic exam and his unorthodox throwing motion.

"With Young, you knew we were going to beat him up," Billick said. "He was just too good to be true. The problem that I see personally is I don't know who you compare him to. I think that makes people uncomfortable.

"Young is a different breed. He really doesn't fit into that Michael Vick category. He has the size, the accuracy and the throwing action. He's a spectacular talent, but he doesn't look like anybody, so that tends to make us all nervous. He gets downgraded for that."

When asked whether Baltimore will use its first-round draft pick on a quarterback, Billick deferred to general manager Ozzie Newsome.

"You have to talk to Ozzie about that one," Billick said. "If he's the highest-rated guy on the board, we'll take him."

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

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