Ravens on quest for a quarterback

OWINGS MILLS -- From the bitter cold of Michigan, to the isolation of Utah, the heart of Texas and the fast-paced Bay Area, the Baltimore Ravens have been on a quest for a quarterback. Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Rick Neuheisel scoured the country with one purpose on his mind: To find a worthy developmental quarterback to groom behind veteran Steve McNair.

Because of McNair's age and the fact that benched former first-round pick Kyle Boller is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this season, the Ravens are in the market for a quarterback that could potentially succeed McNair in the next year or two.
The defending AFC North champions are believed to be serious about possibly using their second-round pick at No. 61 overall on a quarterback. The Ravens don't have a third-round pick and most of the top quarterbacks are expected to be gone by their pair of fourth-round compensatory selections at No. 134 and No. 137 overall.
That has prompted them to embark on a quarterback search that included attending multiple campus workouts and bringing in the following potential first-day passers in for official prospect visits: Stanford's Trent Edwards, Michigan State's Drew Stanton, Houston's Kevin Kolb and Brigham Young's John Beck.
Baltimore also brought in two potential second-day targets in Ohio State's Troy Smith and Pittsburgh's Tyler Palko.
"People around the league will say we are concentrating on the offensive line," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "We've spent as much time on the quarterback. We are very much looking at the quarterback position."
Edwards is a physically-gifted four-year starter whose evaluation is made more difficult by the beating he took behind an inadequate offensive line and incompletions caused by suspect receivers.
He broke his foot after seven games as a senior, finishing the season with 1,027 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions. Just like John Elway, he couldn't turn Stanford into a winner even after going 27-0 at Los Gatos (Calif.) High.
Scouts laud Edwards for his size at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, toughness and arm strength.
"He got absolutely killed at Stanford because the pass protection was poor, but he has a lot of tools," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "He has a very strong arm and is very competitive, smart kid. Sometimes, he throws off his back foot or forces the football into coverage.
"The question is can he overcome some of the bad habits he's developed having played on such a bad team. Can he overcome what he's dealt with and become a good player?"
There are less questions about Beck, a former Eagle Scout who will be a 25-year old rookie after serving a two-year Mormon mission in Portugal after high school.
Although Beck lacks ideal size and arm strength, he consistently makes sound decisions and has a quick release.
The Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year completed 69.3 percent of his throws last season for 3,886 yards, 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions. As a junior, Beck racked up 3,709 yards and 27 touchdowns.
According to Beck, several teams he visited, including the Detroit Lions, told him that they expect him to be drafted in the second round.
"John Beck isn't the biggest or the best athlete with the best arm, but he gets rid of the football very quickly and he's very accurate," DeCosta said.
Stanton is an imposing, fiery presence at 6-3, 226 pounds with 4.72 speed, but lost confidence and fundamentals as a senior and only passed for 1,807 yards with 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His decision-making has been criticized as shaky, but he has a nice over-the-top delivery.
"Stanton is very mobile, an excellent runner who's excellent outside the pocket," DeCosta said. "He's a tough guy who led the team in special-teams tackles as a freshman."
Named the Conference USA Player of the Year as a senior with 3,809 yards, 30 touchdowns and four interceptions, Kolb has been lauded for his intangibles and touch.
However, Kolb played almost exclusively in a shotgun offense with four to five wide receivers. A lack of background in an NFL offense and an occasional tendency to stare down his primary read could hurt his stock.
"He's a great passer with a great arm who didn't play in the typical pro-style type of offense," DeCosta said. "Not a lot of quarterbacks who have played in that system have necessarily flourished in the NFL. We think he's got leadership ability as an outgoing kid that other players would probably rally around in the huddle."
Whichever quarterback the Ravens draft, they're likely to take a much more patient approach with him than they exercised with Boller.
Boller was starting against the Pittsburgh Steelers five months after Baltimore drafted him in the first round after trading the following year's first-round pick to the New England Patriots. The former Cal-Berkeley star never seemed to recover from not being brought along slowly and was replaced after three inconsistent seasons.
Baltimore has struggled at drafting and developing first-day quarterbacks, including Boller and former third-round pick Chris Redman out of Louisville.
Now, they're hoping to reverse that negative trend with no guarantees that they'll get it right this time.
"You can see quarterback after quarterback after quarterback that has all the parts, but it just doesn't quite mesh to make a productive quarterback," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "For that reason, that ambiguity, that uncertainty, I think that's where the history comes from. If you're talking the first round, probably the quarterback position is the one that has the biggest volatility in that regard."
CHARTING THE QUARTERBACKS
The Baltimore Ravens are definitely in the market for a developmental quarterback to groom behind veteran Steve McNair, sending offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Rick Neuheisel all over the country to scout this batch of passers.
Acquiring one could mean using their second-round pick at No. 61 overall to find a potentially worthy successor. Here's a look at the quarterbacks ranked behind the two blue-chip prospects, LSU's JaMarcus Russell and Notre Dame's Brady Quinn:
Player School Size Speed
THE ELITE
1. Trent Edwards Stanford 6-4, 225 4.76
2. John Beck Brigham Young 6-2, 213 4.79
3. Drew Stanton Michigan State 6-3, 229 4.74
4. Kevin Kolb Houston 6-3, 221 4.87
SECOND TIER
5. Troy Smith Ohio State 6-0 221 4.63
6. Chris Leak Florida 5-11, 211 4.78
7. Matt Moore Oregon State 6-3, 199 4.82
8. Tyler Palko Pittsburgh 6-1, 219 4.88
9. Jordan Palmer UTEP 6-5, 231 4.98
10. Jared Zabransky Boise State 6-2, 216 4.58
SLEEPERS
1. Isaiah Stanback Washington 6-2, 215 4.57
2. Toby Korrodi Central Missouri 6-3, 235 5.19
3. Luke Getsy Akron 6-2, 224 4.96
4. Jeff Smith Georgetown (Ky.) 6-4, 2338 4.89
5. Tyler Thigpen Coastal Carolina 6-2, 221 4.74
6. Matt Gutierrez Idaho State 6-4, 234 5.03
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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