Ravens open to trading down

OWINGS MILLS -- It's rare for the Baltimore Ravens to broach their plans, but they felt no need to keep secrets about a major part of their agenda heading into the NFL draft.

One, the Ravens obviously need a starting safety to play next to Ed Reed and would be thrilled if multi-dimensional Texas safety Mike Huff was still available for their 13th overall pick of the first round. Two, Baltimore is extremely interested in possibly trading down for extra draft picks to capitalize on a deep draft.

The Ravens don't have a third-round draft pick because of a trade last year to acquire offensive tackle Adam Terry. Whether the trade-down option is an elaborate smoke screen probably won't be evident until the Ravens are on the clock.

"Yes, we could be enticed to move that pick before we get to the 13th," said general manager Ozzie Newsome, who all but ruled out a trade-up, power move. "Our trade-down scenario is always if there are three or four guys we really like and we have an opportunity to move back and still get one of those guys, plus add an additional pick, from an organizational standpoint, that's the right thing to do.

"I was talking to two general managers and I think we all agreed that the top eight players are probably the same in everybody's draft room. Once you get between nine and 20, it's going to be a picker's choice for whatever you need."

The trade scenario would almost certainly be scrapped if the Ravens have a chance to draft Huff or Longhorns quarterback Vince Young, both of whom are projected to be selected in the first 10 picks.

It gets more complicated if the Ravens have a chance to draft pass-rushing Florida State defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley or massive Oregon nose guard Haloti Ngata. That could happen if Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage (a former Ravens executive) picks swift Florida State outside linebacker/defensive end Kamerion Wimbley with the 12th pick. Wimbley appears ideally suited for the Browns' 3-4 defense.

The Ravens seem to favor the 6-foot-4, 340-pound Ngata with director of college scouting Eric DeCosta stating: "He probably has a higher ceiling than Bunkley."

The Ravens were also highly complimentary of Florida State linebacker Ernie Sims and USC offensive tackle Winston Justice, who would both likely be available at No. 13.

But picking up a third-round draft pick is tempting for a team with needs at quarterback, defensive line, secondary and the offensive line.

"I think teams in the 20s would love to be at 13," said DeCosta, added that he believes that the prospects available between the 50th and 80th picks are superior to last year's pool. "When we're on the clock at 13, there's going to be a player that other teams covet and you have to weigh the player you want to take versus what you can get."

If the Ravens trade back in the first round, they could still pick up a highly regarded defensive back like Florida State's Antonio Cromartie -- a 6-2, 208-pounder with 4.3 speed coming off a major knee injury -- or Virginia Tech's Jimmy Williams, a supposedly enigmatic 6-2, 210-pounder.

"We've had success with drafting people and allowing them to start," said Newsome, who added that he doesn't think there's a veteran safety currently available that could start for Baltimore. "Once the draft is held, some other people are going to be kicked out on the street. There might be a safety on another team that could be starting for us when we open up against Tampa."

DeCosta praised Williams, who has supposedly been falling on draft boards with reports claiming he behaved arrogantly at the scouting combine.

"When Jimmy Williams played safety, he was probably the best safety in the country," DeCosta said. "We interviewed Jimmy Williams and he was fine. I didn't have any problems with him."

DeCosta struck a realistic chord about the possibility of Young or Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler sliding out of the top 10 within reach of Baltimore.

"First of all, the chances that both guys are there [at No. 13] is virtually nonexistent," DeCosta said. "The chances that one of those guys would be there is very, very slight. If that were to happen, I would imagine the phones would be ringing pretty steadily."

DeCosta and Newsome have retained close ties with Savage, who left the team prior to last year's draft as DeCosta assumed his former role as Newsome's top draft advisor and scout. That adds a touch of gamesmanship to the friendly rivalry.

"I would think the Browns are scared to death with us lurking behind them at 13," DeCosta quipped. "I hope Phil reads this: I would love nothing more than to jump in front of him and pick his pocket."

NOTES: The Ravens are scheduled to attend University of Connecticut basketball player Ed Nelson's NFL workout today. ... They didn't attend George Mason basketball player Jai Lewis' workout on Thursday, according to assistant basketball coach Chris Caputo. The 6-5, 290-pound Aberdeen native worked out as an offensive tackle, tight end and defensive end, recording times of 4.95 and 5.05 seconds in front of representatives of the Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, Browns, New England Patriots, New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks. ... Fullback Ovie Mughelli and defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin have signed their $722,000 restricted tenders.


 

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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