Chat Transcript 7/09/02 w/Aaron Wilson

<p>Despite a few technical difficulties, we managed to pull off a great chat this evening, our first of many Tuesday night get-togethers with our man-on-the-Ravens-beat: Aaron Wilson. The following is the edited chat transcript. We took out some of the chaff and kept the juicy stuff. Enjoy.

Aaron_Wilson  Hey Fellas
Lefty511  Great article on Heap, Aaron!
Fat_Elvis  Aaron, even though i am a Chiefs fans and bleed red and gold, i really enjoy your articles and writing style, keep up the good work
TheFanatic  Shalom Aaron
adminsteve  Storm problems. Go Crow dog
Aaron_Wilson  Thanks Elvis
adminsteve  Crow?
SykesvilleRavensFan  are we stuck or are you all just really slow typers?
Crowdog89  Aaron, Just a simple question to start. How hard is it to get material to write about when things have been really slow this off season Ravens wise?
Aaron_Wilson  It's not as bad as you would think in light of Ray and Peter's contract impasses. The problem is that situation impacts so many others and makes the franchise a non-player in the free agency game. They're so inactive at this point, other than the Jeff Blake acquisition (a good one) and re-signing veteran James Trapp (another good move) that writing about them involves looking at what they have instead of the normal speculation about major roster moves. It makes things more clear and allows the media to concentrate on the players currently on the team. There are several new starters because of the roster purging, so I've focused on the new players they've promoted to starting status.
Crowdog89  Thanks Aaron.
Dev21  He's right. There's absoltley nothing to write about at this point, it's all speculation, and prognastication
adminsteve  Elvis, you're on deck
Fat_Elvis  Aaron, as a fan of football, I find the Ravens experiment in a complete purge really interesting and fascinating. Based on what you've seen so far in the minicamps, what are the top three positions do yo think the Ravens will address next year when they have plenty of cap room? (Just a tip folks, if you are a slow typer, queue up your question before its your turn and then press the send button when you are up)
Aaron_Wilson  I believe the Ravens will still be looking to address the wide receiver position regardless of whether former first-round pick Travis Taylor emerges as a top-flight starter. It's still a position woefully lacking in depth. The Ravens may look to address right tackle again, because Edwin Mulitalo's conversion from left guard is likely a short-term solution despite his background in college at Arizona as a left tackle. Also, the Ravens will be in the market for defensive linemen and possible another safety and a corner. Michael McCrary is an excellent pass rusher, but he's a veteran who could use some support from a quality young reserve. Also, depending on Kelly Gregg's progression at nose guard and if the club is able to re-sign Sam Adams, that looks to be a position of need, too.
Fat_Elvis  Thanks
Aaron_Wilson  In short, expect the Ravens to seek help next year, when they have the cap space to operate more freely, at receiver, offensive tackle, defensive line and the secondary. Jamal Lewis' comeback will go a long way toward determining whether the team pursues a running back in the future. So far, the prognosis is good for his second major knee rehabilitation.
SykesvilleRavensFan  while we're all waiting for the next question, I just want to say thanks to AdminSteve and Aaron -- this is very cool
adminsteve  Fanatic - go baby!
TheFanatic  I was at the Jermaine Lewis function the other day and talked to Edwin Mulitano. I basically made a statement/question to him asking if they liked Redman better then Elvis. After a long hesitation on his part, all he said was he's a better team player. The vibe I got was that there wasn't alot of confidence in Redman. Is that the general feeling behind the scenes, or are they just blowing smoke about being confident in Redman
Aaron_Wilson  Behind the scenes, it's harder to tell this year about their opinions. It's a much less opinionated locker room with the absence of the loquacious tight end Shannon Sharpe. Players are much less prone to making bold pronouncements about teammates. Thay may be a good development, though. I think the players respect Redman. Like the rest of the general public and media, the jury remains out on Chris' complete game and ability to handle NFL pressure
Dev21  Who's next?
Aaron_Wilson  Hold on, more...
witko1  damn never been this many in here
SykesvilleRavensFan  that's because we never had Aaron in here before!
Aaron_Wilson  I think Edwin is an honest person who will tell you exactly what he thinks in most situations. He is also something of a company man who touts what the team is selling in terms of spin at that given point. Edwin is understandably concerned about his own situation because he was very comfortable playing next to All-Pro tackle Jonathan Ogden as the left guard. Now, he said he's fully aware that the Jevon Kearses and the Jason Gildons are ""licking their chops"" to speed rush him. I think Chris will do well, but he'll have some early inconsistencies. 
TheFanatic  Thanks Aaron, your statement about Mulitano raises another question, so I'll wait
Aaron_Wilson  That's to be expected from a young quarterback, even one as talented as Chris. Chris has excellent leadership qualities and physical toughness, much better than Elvis, who tended to be a quiet locker room personality who really didn't handle physical contact well. The team seemed to lose a lot of respect for Elvis as he continued to shrink under the microscope of the AFC North.
adminsteve  Go LEFTY!
Lefty511  (Re submitting) What is your take on Dave Zastudil? Will he be as consistant as Richardson was?
Aaron_Wilson  This was an unusual draft pick, but special teams coach Gary Zauner pushed for it, and he has a lot of pull with Brian Billick. So far, Zastudil has shown impressive leg power and hang time. He hasn't been as consistent as Kyle was as a directional punter, with the coffin corner work. It's unfair to completely judge him in this area because he hasn't even been in a preseason game yet.
Aaron_Wilson  Worth noting about Zastudil: He averaged 44.6 yards at Ohio University, had 61 punts over 50 yards and 60 downed inside the 20-yard line. He never had a punt blocked. He should be an upgrade as an athlete from Kyle, who was large and less mobile than Zastudil, a high school quarterback with a decently accurate arm.
adminsteve  OK Syk go
SykesvilleRavensFan  Rumor has it the Ravens may be looking to sign another QB -- if so, any speculation on who they may be looking at and will they cut Cleo Lemmon?
Aaron_Wilson  Addressing your first question, I don't think the Ravens will sign any more quarterbacks, including veterans like Jeff George and Tony Banks. That doesn't fit in with Brian Billick's stated plan for rebuilding with a youth movement. It's questionable whether either would be effective, and Tony's return to Baltimore would necesitate some fence-mending, because he was upset at being benched in favor of Trent Dilfer. He handled it well, quietly and with class, but he clearly believed the Ravens had made a mistake in benching him despite the obvious evidence to the contrary
Aaron_Wilson  Jeff George worked well with Brian in Minnesota, but he's not an attractive fit for the current receiving personnel on this club. He's an expert at the deep ball, with little touch on short passes.
Aaron_Wilson  As for Cleo Lemon, he faces long odds in his battle to beat out seventh-round pick Wes Pate. It's unlikely he would make the club, but stranger things have happened here in Baltimore. In practice, Cleo actually has thrown some nice balls and hasn't stood out in a bad way. He hasn't been prone to interceptions, but he usually doesn't work against the starting defense.
adminsteve  Dev GO!
Dev21  Okay, let's try this again. Have the Ravens started any preliminary negotiations with Mulitalo and McAlister yet? In Mule's case, he's carrying a $1.227 million cap number. It wouldn't be a bad idea to lower his base salary to save another $100,000- $200,000 in cap space.
SykesvilleRavensFan  thanks Aaron
Aaron_Wilson  That's a novel idea. I'm sure the Ravens' expert capologist, Pat Moriarty wouldn't mind considering it. However, securing Mulitalo and McAlister's services isn't the team's highest priority at the moment.
Aaron_Wilson  In speaking with the agent for sixth-round pick Chester Taylor today, he said they are just now beginning to swap contract proposals. The team is focused mostly on signing all 10 of its draft picks under this small rookie pool. The minimum salaries for rookies have raised from $209,000 to $225,000 under the collective bargaining agreement. Expect the Ravens to focus on that piece of business first as well as Ray and Peter's contract restructures before they tend to any more veteran players.
adminsteve  Elvis is in the house GO!
Fat_Elvis  Billick didn't seem to have a lot of confidence or patience with Redman last year, yet he coddled and babied Grbac. Given that Redman will have even less talent around him than Grbac had, do you think Billick and the team will be more forgiving of Redman and allow him some time to develop as a QB or will he have a pretty short leash? Just curious since they brought in Blake....
Aaron_Wilson  Brian tends to endorse his latest pet project, and then he's very reluctant to go away from that thinking. He's a very intelligent man, but sometimes he doesn't like to admit a mistake. He still hasn't acknowledged the Grbac debacle to any great extent. It has his handwriting all over it. However, he will give Chris the benefit of the doubt because that is the chosen course of the organization at present time. Chris should get at least six games to prove himself before they will consider Jeff Blake's insertion.
Aaron_Wilson  The quickest way for Jeff to become a starter again would be for Chris to get hurt. Chris has a tendency to shrug off nasty hits and he doesn't mind a little blood. He's a man's man, a John Wayne type under center. Hopefully for the Ravens' cause, he won't be too macho for his own good.
adminsteve  Mac GO.
Macadamia  Thanks in advance for your reply Aaron. My question is IF the starters can remain healthy, am I crazy to think our offense could actually be BETTER this year than last with Jamal's return and the development of Chris, T2, Stok & Heap?
Aaron_Wilson  BTW Elvis Everyone involved knows this is a rebuilding year, so Chris will get a lot of rope. I don't think he'll get as much as Elvis received.
Aaron_Wilson  You're not exactly deranged at all, Macadamia. You're not nutty, pardon the pun.
Aaron_Wilson  The offense should improve given Jamal's return to good health. He should allow them to control the football and focus on safe passing patterns such as outs to Travis Taylor and pop passes to tight end Todd Heap, a very talented second-year prospect. The problem is the Ravens could conceivably give up as many sacks as they did a year ago and suffer from the losses in production and savvy of Qadry Ismail and Shannon Sharpe. There are very few established veterans at the skill positions on this unit, and that's a reason to be highly concerned. Mistakes are bound to occur.
crazygranpaw  Aaron, you being a professional writer, why were you willing to write for the site, and how did Steve talk you into doing it for free (I assume)?
Fat_Elvis  Please don't say you did it for sexual favors....
Lefty511  Yikes!
Aaron_Wilson  I was intrigued by the immediacy of the Internet as well as the enthusiasm of the people who populate this fan site and make it the fun place that it is. I'm always interested in any outlet where I can express myself and inform the football fans about what's happening with their team. It's a new venture for me, and I expect it to be an exciting one.
Macadamia  Well we're sure glad you did!
SykesvilleRavensFan  I second tat
Aaron_Wilson  Thanks
Dev21  Okay. When speaking to Ozzie, do you get the sense that he's going to stay away from relying more on veteran talent and free agency in the future? Is he going to rely more on the draft (the entire draft), and be more conservative about manipulating the cap to sign free-agents? To me, the Ravens have not done as good a job of finding those bargain free-agents, and using the entire draft to their advantage.
crazygranpaw  Thanks AAron, and welcome again.
Aaron_Wilson  There's a saying in football circles about other teams not wanting other teams problems. It tends to be the Ravens' approach, with a notable, negative departure with Elvis Grbac, who wasn't well-liked in Kansas City, either. Ozzie will try to manufacture starters with the draft mostly.
Aaron_Wilson  However, the Ravens continue to be enamored of his ""right player, right price"" philosophy. He's a hard-working executive who has taken well to his front-office duties. The problems arise when he's hamstrung by lack of cap space. In the case of the Ravens' cap problems, it's a creation of Ozzie wanting to be aggresive to secure another Super Bowl title, but it's a plan that Art Modell wholeheartedly wanted. Art was far too generous in the signing bonuses he awarded players. He's a loyal, kind-hearted employer, but he tends to overspend. Oftentimes, the Ravens are bidding against themselves, or going too high in free agency. Re: Leon Searcy and Elvis Grbac.
adminsteve  Fan - GO
Dev21  Thanks.
TheFanatic  How much input if any does Steve Biscotti have with the team right now? Art Modell only has a limited amount of time left with the team. Does it appear that Ozzie will still be with the team in the same capacity after Modell is gone?
Dev21  That is a good question. Ozzie is under contract though.
TheFanatic  Thanks Lefty, you too in advance Aaron
Aaron_Wilson  Steve Bisciotti has more power than he chooses to exercise. He's basically the white knight that gave the franchise some much-needed capital after the move from Cleveland. He doesn't want to steal the Models' thunder in any way. He likes to stay behind the scenes.
Aaron_Wilson  He'll speak to the media, but he doesn't want to do interviews until it's officially his team. He's a polite, pleasant person, a good friend of Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams. Right now, he is learning by observing and making notes. Expect Ozzie to stay on, but changes are probably forthcoming in some financial areas of the team. Steve will undoubtedly want to bring in his own people, possibly in PR, marketing, operations, ticketing, etc..
Lefty511  Bisciotti was behind me in the line for the porta-pot at the fan day at training camp last year. Gotta love a millionaire who doesn't mind using the ""common folk"" facilities!
Aaron_Wilson  That doesn't mean a housecleaning is coming by any means, but there will be change. It's part of the process of new ownership. I expect Steve to do well as a majority owner. He certainly isn't afraid to spend big to win big.
adminsteve  Mac GO
Macadamia  Cool! I read somewhere Redman said Sharpe was ""intimidating"" in the huddle. Do we think our young guns may actually have a better chance of stepping up now that he's gone?
Aaron_Wilson  I'm not aware of Chris saying that, but Shannon could be an intimidating figure in terms of he would always tell you what he thought and would never hold anything back.
Aaron_Wilson  His comments were usually helpful to the team, but these younger players tend to not handle constructive criticism well. They go into a shell, or they get angry. Everyone respected and liked Shannon, at least that was the appearance of things. I can't say if Chris found Shannon to overbearing in the huddle because I was never invited to observe the huddle behavior.
Aaron_Wilson  I think the young players are more likely to thrive when it's just the coaches telling them what to do rather than a popular, outspoken veteran.
adminsteve  Syke GO
SykesvilleRavensFan  I am the President of Ravens Nest 14 in Sykesville. What are the chances of me getting you to my August meeting as my guest speaker?
adminsteve  Shameless :)
SykesvilleRavensFan  lol
SykesvilleRavensFan  and the comment about observing huddle behavior makes you sound like you work for Wild Kingdom!
TheFanatic  What's he get in return from YOU SRF if he agrees?
Aaron_Wilson  Hello, Sykesville. Just let me know about a time and place and I'll try to attend. That sounds fine to me. It's always nice to talk some football, especially with folks from Carroll County.
adminsteve  I'll hook you up Bridget.
SykesvilleRavensFan  great! and Fan -- that's a private negotiation between me and Aaron!
SykesvilleRavensFan  thanks Steve
adminsteve  Who was next?
Fat_Elvis  Given that the collective bargaining agreement prohibits players who aren't under contract from attending training camp, who will the FO target as getting signed first (aside from Boulware and Lewis) since a good portion of the team will be brand spanking new and no picks (maybe one?) have been signed yet? Will they wait for Reed to slot or will they try to work out his contract quickly?
TheFanatic  LOL
Aaron_Wilson  The team is trying to concentrate on signing its 10 rookie draft picks. I wouldn't anticipate any holdouts, especially with Ed Reed, who told new agent Leigh Steinberg to get his deal done as fast as possible. The Ravens have a track record for being fair to rookies.
Aaron_Wilson  As for your question about not letting players under contract attend camp, it should be a moot issue because both Ray and Peter are under contract. In Ray's case, he has two years remaining on his deal; Peter has one.
Aaron_Wilson  more...
Fat_Elvis  yeah, I was talking aobut the rooks...I should of been more clear on that, sorry
adminsteve  Time for a couple more after this. Anyone...?
Aaron_Wilson  The rookie pool money is flat. Everyone in the NFL world knows this, so they're adjusting to that fact. Expect longer lengths on rookie contracts, more incentive clauses for performance and possibly some guaranteed money in a few cases.
adminsteve  Ok, I think we'll wrap it up.
SykesvilleRavensFan  lol
Crowdog89  This was great and very informative.
Fat_Elvis  Thanks guys, nice chat session
adminsteve  One more question....anyone?
SykesvilleRavensFan  thanks so much Aaron and Steve
Crowdog89  Ditto
SykesvilleRavensFan  this was really awesome
Lefty  Thanks VERY much for your time Aaron!
TheFanatic  Thaanks Aaron!!
SykesvilleRavensFan  lololol
Aaron_Wilson  Thanks guys, I really enjoyed it. Does anyone have any more final questions? I have a few more minutes if you do.
CaroleFootball  Aaron, this was great!
Macadamia  One last question: when are we all doing this again?!?!
SykesvilleRavensFan  what do you think the Ravens record will be this season?
Sephy  Aaron: Seriously, how bad is the D-Line this season?
Crowdog89  I hope you enjoy the lunicy of all of us Aaron
adminsteve  Next Tuesday weather permitting.
Macadamia  I'm out fans. Lata!
Aaron_Wilson  The defensive line is a sore point right now despite having sackmaster Michael McCrary back.
Aaron_Wilson  Defensive end Tony Weaver is a rookie starter, and role players like Marques Douglass and Kelly Gregg are unproven in major playing time. Both have flashed some encouraging signs. The major problem with the line, which is coached by veteran assistant Rex Ryan, is the lack of depth and size. Gregg is only 290 pounds, although he's very stocky and strong in the weight room. The leverage game is tough in a 3-4 for an undersized nose guard. Kelly has excellent quickness, though, which he'll need. McCrary plays at roughly 260 pounds and relies on his intensity and guile. He'll be asked to do a lot more in run support than he normally does in a 4-3. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will have to be cognizant of McCrary's health and age.
Sephy  I wouldn't think asking Mike to focus on the run really builds on his strength. He is large enough though
Aaron_Wilson  As for predicting a record, I would say the Ravens will probably go 7-9, with 8-8 or 9-7 standing as outside possibilities. If Jeff Blake is starting early enough in the year, if Chris falters that is, the team could win more games. That isn't the chief mission of this season. It's all about development. Welcome to the NFL's version of the minor-league credo. It should be interesting to observe which personnel moves pan out and which are ultimately unsuccessful.
Aaron_Wilson  Look forward to chatting with you all next Tuesday. Goodnight.
SykesvilleRavensFan  good night and thanks!
adminsteve  Alright guys. That's it for tonight. We will do it again next week, same time. Thanks Aaron for showing up despite the 'technical problems' (boy do i need a beer). Later all.
Sephy  night, Aaron
Dev21  Thanks Aaron
SykesvilleRavensFan  think I'll have another too Steve
Lefty  loquacious - Gotta remember that word!
Crowdog89  Well, that was fun
Lefty  You'll NEVER see Preston use that word! :)

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