Chat Transcript From Tuesday w/Aaron Wilson

Another cool chat with our resident beat writer. Took a while to untangle the transcript it but it is pretty much in order. Enjoy!

Crowdog89  Welcome again Aaron. I'd like to know what you have heard about the former Dallas Cowboy and USC Coach Dennis Thurman joining the Ravens in some capacity during training camp?
aaronwilson  This is what I've heard about that situation. Coach Thurman would join the team possibly in an assistant defensive back role behind Donnie Henderson. He's an experienced former NFL player and an effective, charismatic recruiter at USC. Not sure about the connection that brought him into Brian Billick's orbit, but he could be an asset. You might remember he was the leader of ""Thurman's Thieves,"" a group of opportunistic Cowboy defensive backs under Gene Stallings (their position coach) and, of course, the legendary Tom Landry. He has a good reputation and would be an asset. Of course, the Ravens haven't made any formal announcements regarding his employment. These things can change quickly if someone changes their mind.
aaronwilson  Stay tuned on this one, because Bennie Thompson is perfectly capable of assisting Henderson. The opening became available when Steve Shafer, assistant head coach and secondary coach last season retired.
Crowdog89  Thanks Aaron. I was curious as to why no official announcement?
ThirdRowRaven  I hear rumors that Antonio Freeman would like to come to Baltimore?? What is the Ravens chances of luring him here??
aaronwilson  Most likely it's because the deal is either not finalized, and/or vacations of Billick and rest of the staff. The public relations staff is there and has been writing news releases, but that doesn't mean an announcement would be made in Billick's absence.
aaronwilson  I wouldn't be too optimistic about Antonio Freeman returning to his hometown to resume his NFL career. As much as he would like to be in Baltimore, it's still a matter impacted by the contract impasses of Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware. Unless the linebackers strike a deal with management, even signing Freeman for the minimum salary or an incentive-laden deal with a small bonus is an unlikely scenario. Freeman's willingness to t [msg continues in 20 secs]
aaronwilson  ake less money helps the situation, but it doesn't chance the facts involved. The Ravens can't afford to sign anyone at this point. They're concentrating on signing their 10 unsigned picks, although they are beginning to heat things up in that business area.
aaronwilson  Freeman is an excellent fit for Baltimore and could be an asset, he just might not be an asset they can reasonable afford.
TheFanatic  Simple question here Aaron, any new updates on the contract negotiations with Boulware and Lewis
aaronwilson  None that you haven't already made yourself aware of, I'm sure. The deal with Lewis involves a disagreement about how large a signing bonus to award him. The complication with Boulware is his one-year status on his contract, the possibility of franchising him, his agents' reluctance to accept any tag, franchise or transitional as it limits their leverage, and the internal debate over how much to pay a pass rusher, even one as effective and accomplished as Boulware. There's also the matter of having other priorities like veteran cornerback Chris McAlister. The Ravens have said they will table the issue if it's not completed by July 26
aaronwilson  I'm certain something will be accomplished eventually. However, I think the Ravens are reluctant to do a less-than cap-friendly deal that helps them immediately because they want to lock up the long term. Every decision the Ravens make for the most part now involves the big picture and a constant checking of the cap implications. They don't want to repeat their mistakes. They want to learn from them.
TheFanatic  If they table the issue, any rumors of holdouts from either if new contracts aren't reached?
aaronwilson  I don't envision holdouts, nor would I be surprised by that development. The agents may want to send a message. Contentious dealings from the start have made this unnecessarily personal. Ironically, both Roosevelt Barnes and Eugene Parker are well-respected representatives and Barnes is a former New York Giant. They are on good terms with Ozzie Newsome. There has been no apparent fence-mending with Brian Billick.
Dev21  My question is, why haven't the Ravens signed a single draft pick yet? In my opinion, it's ridiculous that they haven't at least signed Wes Pate yet. I mean, every team in the league has signed at least one rookie so far.
aaronwilson  The linebackers said they won't hold out just as they said they would attend all mandatory camps, so it makes sense to take them at their word until they indicate otherwise.
TheFanatic  Unfortunately, after the mini camp mess, I have a hard time taking their word as their word seems to be dictated by their agents!!
aaronwilson  It doesn't bode well for the Ravens' pace of negotiating, one that has been criticized by agents in the past because the Ravens operate under a structure where every decision must be approved and a consensus reached. Ultimately, Art Modell makes the decisions with heavy input from his trusted vice president, Ozzie Newsome. In talking to Ed Reed, Lamont Brightful, Tony Weaver and Javin Hunter, all said they had received initial proposals. Reed said he received his on Thursday. However, there's little room to negotiate.
aaronwilson  The deal works like this: rookie minimums are up to $225,000 from $209,000, but there's no raise in the rookie pool money because of the collective bargaining agreement. It's regrettable that teams and agents are relying on slotting again, seeing what other picks received from other teams, before getting serious.
aaronwilson  It's not a positive trend, and it's one that the Ravens tend to follow. Remember, though, the negotiations are handled by Pat Moriarty, Ozzie Newsome and Phil Savage. It's not a one-man assignment.
Dev21  So the signings won't occur until the week before?
aaronwilson  By the way, Terry Jones, the fifth-round tight end from Alabama, told me Saturday that he was hopeful about getting his contract finalized by this week. All the rookies are anxious to complete these deals and begin to live the NFL lifestyle.
Dev21  Okay, gottcha. Thanks.
ThirdRowRaven  What's the lastest on Jamal Lewis's knee??? The last time I hear he was around 85%% and ready to go. Do you think Jamal will be at full 100%% before the season starts??
aaronwilson  It depends on the mood of the Ravens. They are also encountering some agents wanting to be more creative than usual in terms of guaranteed money, incentives and longer lengthes of deals. That's new to the entire league for rookie contracts. This is an unusual year, but because of the lack of raise in the rookie pool, it shouldn't be so complicated. It's nothing to be alarmed about. Where else are the players going to go? Ultimately, they will have to accept an offer and live with it. 
aaronwilson  Jamal estimates his condition at 85 to 90 percent. Here's his deal: It's his second major knee rehabilitation and so far everything has gone well. He could help his rehab process significantly by dropping a few pounds. A teammate told me Monday that Jamal may be 250 pounds. Now, a lot of that is upper body muscle, but he could drop a few with more cardiovascular work.
aaronwilson  The burst and explosiveness are still there. The endurance and ability to overcome the aches associated with a surgically reconstructed knee are coming along. The Ravens will be very careful with Lewis' workload during camp in Westminster.
Dev21  The point was made a couple of days by B-more Ravor, a poster on the board, that the Ravens could concievably place the franchise tag on Mcalister and place the transitional tag on Boulware. Do you see the Ravens doing this if both players are not signed by March 1?
TheFanatic  Should we still have any concern about Jamals dabbling in illegal substances? He was suspended last year for who knows what (You might be privy to the what, but we ain't) Is the team still have any concerns about these types off isdsues with him?
aaronwilson  It's not out of the realm of possibility. It's a good point, but it's not something that the Ravens have publicly defined in any way. I would think the priority because of the dearth of cornerbacks with McAlister's abilities and size, would be to ensure that McAlister remains on the roster at all costs.
aaronwilson  I would envision the Ravens trying to avoid placing the tag on players because of how rough the Wally Williams situation became. They may threaten to use it as public posturing with the agents, but they will try to avoid having to actually pull the trigger on that. They'll tread carefully, to be certain.
aaronwilson  Jamal said he has learned his lesson. He served a four-game suspension for an unspecified violation of the league's sustance abuse policy..
Crowdog89  A lot of people are touting Chester Taylor and I too think he will be a good back-up and maybe even starter quality at some point. The dark horse RB in my mind is Tellis Redmon. What can you tell me about Redmon and what is your opinion of him?
aaronwilson  However, the four-game suspension cost him no playing time as he was injured at the time. It cost him four game checks. If he slips up, it's a mandatory year's suspension unless he wins an appeal, as the Titans rugged defensive tackle Josh Evans just did. If Jamal blows this chance, he's not listening, because Art Modell said he took him aside, just as he did Bam Morris. Ouch, a bad name to have Jamal's name connected with. Knowing Modell, he mentioned Bam's trangressions (in jail for selling drugs) as a way to teach Jamal a lesson.
aaronwilson  Just a little fatherly advice. I would be more concerned with Jamal's knee than his off-field behavior and choices.
aaronwilson  Tellis Redmon is an extremely versatile back who should make this team because of his ability to catch the football out of the backfield and play special teams.
Crowdog89  do you see Redmon getting any quality playing time this season?
aaronwilson  He made a bad decision to leave Minnesota after his junior season and he doesn't have ideal size, but he's very shifty and performs most tasks smoothly. He's also very confident. When asked who people say he plays like, he replied: ""Marshall Faulk"" Obviously, that would be nice, but not realistic.
aaronwilson  Prognosis for Redmon: He'll make the team because he also shows promise on special teams.
Macadamia  I realize it's very early, but are there any other rookie free agents who have really surprised the Ravens Coaching Staff so far?
HDDream  Redmon could be this year's Moe Williams
aaronwilson  I don't think Redmon will play a lot, because of Chester Taylor's presence. He will likely make the team unless there are a lot of injuries that necesitate the Ravens loading up at another position like offensive line or defensive line, for example.
adminsteve  New members: If you have a question, let me know and I will put you in the rotation. Once you have a place in the rotation, have your question teed up and ready to roll. That way, we can get as many in as possible.
aaronwilson  As for undrafted free agents, here are a few names to watch: LBs Bart Scott and J.R. Johnson, WR D.J. Humphries and Randy Hymes, DB Will Demps and RBs Tellis Redmon and Dameon Hunter. Very hard to tell you anything concrete, good or bad, about undrafted line prospects until the hitting begins
ThirdRowRaven  What are the Ravens chances of luring Sam Adams back?? I hear he is making a visit to the Bengals.
aaronwilson  He was supposed to visit the Bengals today, according to reports in Cincinnati. They would have the most cap room to spend on the big defensive tackle. Don't be shocked if Sam signs a lucrative short-term deal and then looks to re-enter the free-agent market again.
Sephy  OK, how has if at all any offensive schemes changed this season for Redman? I know they had said they dumbed it down for Dilfer, do they plan a simpler start for Chris?
aaronwilson  His bluff about sitting the season out to coach his semi-pro team in Seattle is just that, a bluff in a high-stakes poker game. It won't scare many teams although you never know with the mom-and-pop Bengals under Mike Brown's stewardship.
aaronwilson  Chris actually knows the offense. With him, it involves a lot more than him being limited physically in what he can, which was Dilfer's case. With Chris, it's the coaching staff wanting him to build confidence with patterns he's comfortable with.
aaronwilson  It's not going to exactly be Ravens Lite, but they will try to work to his strengths with out patterns, posts and plenty of intermediate routes to tight end Todd Heap, who I expect to have a major impact as a receiver.
adminsteve  MS welcome. If you have a question, let me know and I will put you in the rotation. Once you have a place in the rotation, have your question teed up and ready to roll. That way, we can get as many in as possible.
aaronwilson  If Jamal is healthy, obviously he'll see as much work as possible to take pressure off of Redman, the club's fourth quarterback to start the last four seasons.
* Dev21  Alright, we know that the Ravens could have anywhere between $17-$20 million to spend on free-agents alone. This doesn't include signing draft picks or their owns players. Now knowing this, how do you think the Ravens will spend their money? And, you can use my latest article as a point of reference
HDDream  a shameless plug if I ever heard one....g
aaronwilson  Good piece, Dev. I think David Boston would be an extravagant expenditure. I think Donovin Darius is a personal favorite of Tom Coughlin, so they will try to do something to bring him back unless the bidding gets too high. For what it's worth, he likes playing for the Jaguars and is fairly community-oriented.
aaronwilson  I think they will look to secure a receiver, an offensive tackle and a defensive lineman. Don't expect them to bid on these positons: linebacker, quarterback or running back.
Macadamia  I have a comment on Sam Adams. I see him joining Oakland now that they re-did Gannon's contract.
Dev21  Thanks, the bit about Darius makes sense.
aaronwilson  Possibly. Everyone in the league is aware of the Raider's motivation under Al Davis. The motto is: ""Let's win now, baby"" because the window is closing and the AARP days for Tim Brown and Jerry Rice are getting closer and closer.
TheFanatic  Elvis Grbac apparently didn't like to operate out of the shotgun. according to most sources, Bilick leaves the shotgun decision up to his quarterbacks. Can we expect to see Redman operating out of the shotgun?
aaronwilson  Sam would be a good fit in Oakland because of Darrell Russell's legal troubles. I also think he's the perfect player, attiude wise, for the silver and black. He has a moody, nasty streak in him as well as a lot of physical gifts.
aaronwilson  Yes, we might see Chris do that, because Chris is comfortable in the shotgun. He looked adept at catching the snap and gazing downfield during minicamp work. The caveat is how will he react to, say, the Steelers' pass rush.
aaronwilson  It might, Sephy. If they win a Super Bowl, I'm sure they'll feel it was worth all the trouble, as the Ravens implicitly do.
aaronwilson  Ed Reed looked very smooth in coverage and was vocal about learning his responsibilities. He's quick to ask questions if he doesn't understand something. He hustles and he is usually in the right position to make a play. Also, he has good hands, much better than Anthony Mitchell, who is prone to dropping what should be sure interceptions.
LeslieFootball  What is Brian Billick's contract situation? Do you see his job in danger if Ravens have less than 500 record?
Sephy  Question: How long does Matt Stover stay a Raven. With his salary creeping up into the 1 mil range next season(2003), do we see a restructure, a cut, or what? Grab this after Leslie's.
aaronwilson  As for Brian's contract, reportedly he's already agreed to an extension that would lock him up until 2005 and pay him an average of $3.5 million per season. Of course, if the Ravens don't do well not this season but in the one to follow, I'm sure Stephen Bisciotti, the owner in waiting, will want to review the situation.
aaronwilson  If Matt keeps up the way he's been playing, fourth most accurate kicker in league history at 81 percent, the Ravens will keep restructuring him. Matt likes playing for the Ravens and won't offer much trouble. He's also proven himself completely to Billick with the way he carried the team for five touchdownless games. Matt is the kind of person and pressure player the club needs.
HDDream  I've got one....given the low increase in the rookie salary scale, can we expect both 4th round picks to sign 4 year deals to cut down on the first year cap number?
TheFanatic  Curious as to what type of relationship the elder stateman of the defense (Ray Lewis, McCrary, Boulware, etc.) have developed with Mike Nolan, if any? They all came into the league under Marvin Lewis. Does it seem to be a smooth and working transition?
aaronwilson  On the fourth-round question, I think you can expect both Zastudil and Johnson to be on the team for a while, hence they will sign at the shortest, three-year contract with four being a strong possibility. Job stability ranks high in the NFL, so a smaller deal wrapped up in a longer length of service doesn't offend many players or their agents. It's all about having a job, rather than bagging groceries at Kroger.
aaronwilson  As for the relationship with Nolan and the older defensive players, it's coming along. Mike admitted that he doesn't know the players that well because he was on offense last year working with the receivers. He's a capable coach with a sound plan. Judging by his work with the Redskins and Giants, teams with strong personalities on the defensive side of the ball, Mike will be fine. He's a personable, intense coach. Guys enjoy playing for him. He truly respects veteran input and advice from other coaches. He's also more vocal than Marvin Lewis was. 
Dev21  To play on Sephy's question about Stover, do see Flynn being a cap casualty next year too? He is carrying a base salary worth more than $2 million, and Rabach could take his place. He is a player that was drafted because he has the potential to be a very good center in the NFL.
TheFanatic  There supposed to be replaying todays bit with Nolan, but I don't know when. Possibly next week
aaronwilson  Mike Flynn could be in potential danger if he wasn't such a good leader on a young offense that's practically bereft of them.
Sephy  Any longer term solutions for RT? Unless Edwin really demonstrates staying power, I can't see him sticking around there.
aaronwilson  Rabach is an excellent prospect, but he hasn't even played one snap, so it's too early to tell. Also, we can't tell how Casey will do at center since he's at left guard for the moment because of Edwin Mulitalo's experimental move to right tackle. It's a look-ahead situation that hasn't been defined yet. Mike blocked very well toward the end of the season. Remember how many times he got under Dolphins middle linebacker Zach Tho [msg continues in 20 secs]
HDDream  Just a quick followup on Nolan, will he coach from the field ala Lewis, or will he coach from the coache's box upstairs?
aaronwilson  You're right about Edwin in that he's a stopgap solution. They may have to make tackle their priority again in next year's draft. Brett Williams of Florida State is an interesting prospect.
Sephy  What can you tell us about Williams?
aaronwilson  Not sure about Nolan's preferred place on the field, but I think he'll want to be on the field because of all of the young players who will need immediate instruction instead of a phone call and a halftime chat. Mike will need to be very hands-on because of the lack of experience.
Dev21  Sorry, I don't think I made myself clear on the Flynn issue. I was talking about next year, not this year. But I understand your point, they think he
Sephy  I just was wondering what kind of blocker Williams from FSU is
aaronwilson  No, I understood the point Dev. I was just saying that we can't do much with that until we see how the line shuffle pans out.
HDDream  Baxter, Rabach and Hartwell...which of those three do you think will do the best this year, and which will struggle?
Dev21  Okay, thanks for the clarification Aaron.
aaronwilson  Williams is an aggressive right tackle type with outstanding upper body strength. He was a highly-recruited Parade All-American in high school at Kissimmee Osceola outside of Orlando. A true tough guy.
Dev21  Sounds like a damn good prospect guys.
HDDream  Yeah, I've heard good things about Williams
aaronwilson  I expect Hartwell to do very well. I expect Gary to have early transtional problems with a late emergence as a good prospect once the opponents get tired of testing him out every other play and I expect Rabach to do well as a pass blocker, but to not truly excel in run-blocking one-on-one matchups with massive tackles. He's basically a very athletic guard that should operate better in space than he does in close quarters, the opposite of right guard Bennie Anderson's style.
HDDream  How do you think Ricard will do at FB?
Crowdog89  Good question HD
Sephy  How good is the chance this team could surprise people? I think aside from the line(as previously discussed), the defense will be solid, and the offense has a chance to actually be a little explosive.
aaronwilson  Ricard is an enigma in that he hasn't played since he was at Northeast Louisiana. Have no questions about his pass-catching ability which isn't that far behind Femi's skills.
aaronwilson  However, it's unsettled on how he'll do in physical confrontations with aggressive linebackers like Kendrell Bell of the Steelers.
Sephy  IMO, this team showed what it could do with a QB that didnt lay down and die like Elvis did, in the games with Cunningham, and previously with Dilfer. Redman just might add that toughness back.
aaronwilson  This team will surprise many because they've overestimated how bad the salary cap carnage has decimated the team. Yes, the Ravens are a shell of their former selves, but this incarnation could win 6 to 8 games if things fall right. The problem is in the NFL there's always an occurrence the team can't predict happening.
Dev21  Speaking of Anderson, how good of a season do you see him having? He is an unrestricted free-agent next year, so he'll have to play pretty well to be re-signed.
aaronwilson  Redman is a tough guy who will take a hit. A lot of Ravens lost respect for Elvis because of his disdain for playing with the small hurts. He wasn't a very macho signal caller. Chris is Huck Finn in a football helmet, a country boy who doesn't mind a little pain.
Dev21  Bennie Anderson that is.
aaronwilson  Anderson is a good prospect who has been an excellent fit with the Ravens. I don't think other teams are very aware of his progress yet, so he's unlikely to be a real commodity. The team discovered him, so it's likely that he'll be loyal. Yes, he's an undrafted lineman from Tennessee State who used to play for the XFL's Chicago Enforcers and he has no pedigree, but he can flat play.
TheFanatic  Marvin Lewis rarely blitzed (which usually pissed me off!!) Can we expect to see alot more blitzing out of Nolans schemes? Corner and safety blitzes, etc.?
Sephy  me and fanatic, leader of the Lewis Must Die brigade
aaronwilson  Yes, I think we can, but maybe not very many safety blitzes with Ed Reed. He's being advised to stay back and be the last line of defense. I think that blitzes would play to Anthony Mitchell's strengths.
Crowdog89  Are you looking forward to training camp opening so you'll have plenty to write about as well as answering some of the questions of the team?
aaronwilson  He briefly played outside linebacker at Tuskegee Institute and excels in the box, the area close to the line of scrimmage.
HDDream  Ravens remind me of Jacksonville the last couple of years, some talent, no depth, anyway...we've all asked about the Ravens, who do you think will be playing in San Diego at the Super Bowl next Jan? Any surprise teams?
aaronwilson  Definitely. It's time to stop speculating and see what's what. I'm eager to find out how many of these new starters will become credible NFL players and which ones are only viable on paper.
aaronwilson  It's early, but don't be shocked if the St. Louis Rams control the league next year and win the Super Bowl this time around. They would have won last year if coach Mike Martz hadn't gotten too cute with his play-calling. Run to glory.

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