NEW!: Ravens Insider chat transcript

OWINGS MILLS -- Our latest installment of questions and answers here at Ravens Insider:

Question: Have you heard of any progress in getting our rookies signed? Are negotiations under way yet?

Answer: They have begun preliminary discussions, but no contracts with the rookies are imminent at this point to my knowledge. Typically, the Ravens begin with the later-round picks and try to get some of them done in early July. Because the Ravens believe in the NFL slotting principle, they like to wait a little while to see what kind of signing bonuses other teams are awarding.

Here's a little information on the minimum base salaries they'll receive in addition to their signing bonuses: First year, $285,000; Second year, $370,000; Third year, $460,000; Fourth year, $550,000.

Basically, the Ravens tend to do this toward the end of July. Typically, the first-round draft pick is usually three to seven days late because of a holdout. They do take a hard-line stance on raising their top offer in almost every case on bonus money.

Question: How much control is Billick going to let the OC have when the season starts? Will Billick be doing ALL the play calling?
BR> Answer: Brian Billick has said he will remain the chief play-caller with suggestions and input from the staff welcomed by him. The game plan will be devised in collaboration with newly promoted offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel, but Billick has final say on gameday.

He seemed to be energized by taking over play-calling duties again last season and the Ravens ranked 10th in total offense in the NFL during the 10 games he was in charge of orchestrating the offense. As Neuheisel and Billick have reiterated several times, Neuheisel will have a louder voice now in determining the direction of the offense. However, it's Billick's show and he's determined to run it with his own personal imprint at this point. I doubt that stance will change during this season at least.

Question: Is there any indication going on around the organization about Suggs getting resigned before training camp? Answer: They would love to get Terrell Suggs signed to a long-term contract extension prior to training camp. I've heard they're still negotiating, but no deal is apparently in the offing anytime soon. It just depends on the right offer whirring across a fax machine during negotiations between Pat Moriarty, the Ravens' chief negotiator/director of salary cap operations, and Gary Wichard, Suggs' agent who also represents Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney and used to represent Brian Bosworth.

So far, negotiations have been amicable. Wichard no longer negotiates in the press and has a good rapport with the Ravens. Suggs has told me and said in mass interviews that he's not worried about the contract talks and expects the Ravens to retain him. I don't expect a holdout or complaints from him, or a problem if a deal isn't struck between now and reporting date at the end of this month. They can keep talking during the season as well. The preference from all parties involved is to get something done sooner rather than later.

Question: After all you saw during the OTAs, do you think any of the UDFAs have a good chance of making the team?

How about some of the late round draftees? Anyone particularly impressive?

Answer: Of the undrafted group, I'm not counting out safeties Donnie Johnson and Bobby Blackshire, nose guard Andrew Powell or wide receiver Damien Linson and tight end Kendrick Ballantyne. I think the numbers work well for the rookie safeties. I think practice squad is more likely for the other guys mentioned. The rookie inside linebacker they signed from San Diego State, Joe Martin, is scrappy, but undersized. Should be an interesting guy to watch during training camp.

Cullen Finnerty is a pretty intriguing Division II prospect with 92 career touchdown passes and three national titles and nearly 10,000 passing yards. The deck is stacked against him, though, with so many quarterbacks ahead of him, including Troy Smith and Drew Olson. Both safeties are big, mobile and supposedly hard-hitting.

Of the later-round draft picks, I think linebacker Prescott Burgess has shown more speed and mobility than initially expected. Seems like he should fit the defensive scheme pretty well.

Question: Since Suggs agent also represents Freeney, any chances he will wait till one signs to bump up the value of the other? No doubt Suggs would be a once in a lifetime type free agent at 24 years old.

Another question, the roster seems pretty set so a big free agent acquisition is out of the question, are there any chances of any veteran players being brought in for vet minimum prior to the start of camp?

Answer: I think Suggs' agent is aware of the value of both players, but no deal is probably imminent with Indianapolis so he won't play pressure tactics. Freeney is already franchised and making over $8 million this year, so he's fine with that for now. Suggs' contract will be a blockbuster one with likely $20 million in guaranteed money and a potential total maximum value of $40 million. It will be a huge financial windfall for a Pro Bowl pass rusher who doesn't turn 25 until October.

As for your second question, I think they will keep an eye on the safety market, but I don't expect them to sign someone for depth that's too experienced like say a Donovin Darius who will likely find a starting job elsewhere like Buffalo. For the most part, this is your football team in its current construction.

Question: Who else needs to be resigned before they hit FA at the end of the year?

Answer: Really, no one. Jason Brown is going to be a restricted free agent next year and his agent has reached out to the Ravens about doing a contract extension. Nothing really brewing there, but they like him and consider him part of the future of the offensive line. He has leadership qualities, toughness and blocking skills. Kyle Boller obviously is likely to depart as an unrestricted free agent along with Devard Darling and Clarence Moore, etc..

Question: Is there any chance that Grubbs would get the nod at LG? or are they set on him for the RG spot. Why I am asking is because I wonder if he is getting reps on both sides. I figure that Brown is versatile so he can play all 3 inside positions and since they are to my knowledge implement zone blocking this would be it would be at least new to some degree anyway. Love competition like this and I especially love the versatility of Brown and Chester and Grubbs can play at either G position, I just wonder if it hinders him to play the RG since I believe he played LG in college and was a monster. I'm not sure how many RG's make the Pro-Bowl each year but I heard somewhere Grubbs had Faneca-potential.

Just wondering if you heard anything further about the O-line. Thanks

Answer: I really doubt that scenario will unfold. What I foresee happening is Chris Chester winding up with the right guard job for a while and learning next to Mike Flynn. Ultimately, Chester will shift inside and Ben Grubbs will be your right guard. He has vast potential, but they don't want to rush the youth movement too soon. Remember, they're already phasing in at least two new starters with Chester promoted and Keydrick Vincent benched and Adam Terry replacing Tony Pashos at right tackle. Eventually, a young, talented line should emerge here.

Question: Aaron how is the O line looking specifically the rookies grubbs and Yanda? Also haven't heard much about Mike Smith or any reports about Dan Cody needing/not needing surgery any updates? Answer: I think the offensive line looked sharp and well-conditioned during minicamp. Both Ben Grubbs and Marshal Yanda appear to be athletic, intelligent rookies who don't say much except asking questions from veteran blockers. I'm not sold on Yanda as a tackle because of his lack of ideal height and wingspan, but I think he has a lot of upside as a guard and could survive as a backup right tackle.

Mike Smith had shoulder surgery and seems to be recovering well enough that he'll be ready for training camp. Nothing new at this point on the Dan Cody front. He should know something later this month as far as whether he'll require surgery or not.
BR> Question: Aaron- Please project the LB depth. who gets cut Moore or Darling? Which one of the young DB's step up, Pittman, Ogelsby, Martin, Prude? Answer: Linebacker depth goes like this: Starters are Ray Lewis, Bart Scott, Jarret Johnson and Terrell Suggs. Backups are: Mike Smith, Prescott Burgess, Gary Stills, Dan Cody, Antwan Barnes, Dennis Haley.

I think Devard Darling offers more to the receiving corps than Clarence Moore does, but I'm not sure if Billick is willing to part ways with his 6-foot-6 project.

Of the group you mentioned, I think Ronnie Prude is the best of that bunch. Great football instincts. If only he were bigger and faster.

Question: What are the pros and cons of the Ravens cutting Kedrick Vincent, and speding any savings on a productive player, or a resigning, like Bannister.

Answer: I think Keydrick Vincent is worth keeping as a backup because his salary, $1.6 million, is reasonable, he's in shape and he's healthy after successfully rehabbing from sports hernia surgery. He seems to have taken the demotion in stride and has maintained a team-first attitude. The potential savings of cutting him are miniscule.

They have had chances to re-sign Alex Bannister. So have other teams, but no one has jumped on him despite visits with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills. All he does is play special teams, which makes him a tough case to sell for his agent, Tim McGee.

Question: Fullback, Can the kid from Alabama take the job from Justin Green? I realize that this year will be more single back sets. With this said, if we go 4 wide who are the four, not including Heap? Does Antwan Barnes see the field, if none of our projected starters get hurt?

Answer: I think Le'Ron McClain has an excellent chance to take the starting fullback job from Justin Green, and I won't be surprised if that transpired. He has great size, a hard-nosed attitude and soft hands out of the backfield.

If they went four wide today, it would likely be Mark Clayton, Derrick Mason, Demetrius Williams and likely Todd Heap or Daniel Wilcox operating in the slot.

I think Antwan Barnes has a legitimate shot to thrive as a situational pass rusher. Especially if Dan Cody's knee requires surgery. I said, if, mind you. Either way, Barnes is going to be a special-teams factor and get some opportunities to prove himself on defense. They love this kid's athleticism and hustle.

Question: Seems a little slow so I had another question, what have you heard about the youth on the OL? Are there any of the older OL that would be a cap relief if released after this year, or this year during training camp? (Vincent, Flynn) Also, when can we expect Grubbs to start? Where has Yanda lined up during minicamps? Answer: I think Ben Grubbs will start before the season ends. I don't think it really makes sense to cut any of the veteran offensive linemen at this point, including Mike Flynn and Keydrick Vincent. Marshal Yanda has played left and right tackle primarily. He's also capable of playing either guard position.

Question: Is there any UDFA we seem to be very impressed with? What is Drew Olson's future with this team? Is the "competition" between Troy and Drew only an easy way to say Troy is going to beat him out? Drew didn't put up very good numbers in NFLE.

Answer: I think Drew Olson will not be able to beat our Troy Smith under most foreseeable circumstances. Troy is a better athlete with superior arm strength and talent. I doubt Olson will be able to compete with him. Olson does remain eligible for the practice squad, though.

Guys, I've got to run. Thanks for all the great questions submitted. Sorry the chat room didn't work for non-subscribers. I will make this a transcript for the front page tomorrow with a photograph and it will be archived. We do these on a regular basis in the chat room and in realtime I answer roughly four to six times the amount of questions during a one-hour chat. Scout.com's promotion with all articles open to all concludes tomorrow at midnight, so make sure to check out the current articles and the archive. Thanks again and have a safe and happy Fourth of July holiday. Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.


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