VIP subscriber Q&A column

OWINGS MILLS -- Questions and answers on the latest news out of One Winning Drive. VIP subscribers, please keep reading for further details.

Question: 1) Do they have any idea when Ogden is going to make his decision or in which direction he's leaning? 2) Do they plan to restructure any more contracts to create additional cap space?

Answer: They are doing what they did last year, which is letting Jonathan Ogden have some space to make his decision. Now, John Harbaugh said he has done some recruiting of the All-Pro tackle to try to convince him to return, but they're not going to overdo it.

As Harbaugh said earlier this week, he believes Ogden is truly torn between retirement or returning for another season. Ogden has said he's leaning toward retirement. Plus, he might not like the type of demanding camp that Harbaugh is planning to run. I would think in terms of a time table that Ogden will inform the team at some point prior to the draft. Keep in mind that Ogden's decision shouldn't affect their draft outlook since it's unlikely they would be looking for a rookie tackle to start immediately.

On your second question, I think they would like to restructure a few more contracts, potentially Chris McAlister or Trevor Pryce.

Question: Have you heard any player reactions to all the up coming changes (locker room weight room) increased Mini camps etc. Who is saying what?

Answer: The players I've spoken to, including Dan Wilcox, Mark Clayton and Justin Green, have expressed enthusiasm about the changes and the personality of the new coaching staff, especially John Harbaugh.

Question: Aaron Is Suggs content (at least on the outside) with being tagged? And is it me or is this pattern of waiting to sign big name guys really hurting this team as far as the cap goes. It goes all the way back to McAlister IMO. They wait and wait, franchised him twice, and when they finally signed him to a long term deal, it was for MUCH more than what they would've had to spend if they had just signed him to a long term deal 2 years prior. Ogden, Ray, Heap, and Reed all set the bar for contracts at their respective positions. Now we find ourselves up against he cap big time. What is their reasoning for dragging stuff like this out? Seems to happen with their first round picks a lot as well.

Answer: I don't think Terrell Suggs will have a big problem making $8.065 million next season, but I expect his agent to bristle at least some privately. I don't think they are bad at managing the cap. The problem is overpaying for older players such as Samari Rolle, Derrick Mason, Trevor Pryce and Steve McNair. They have been overly generous to those guys as well as Ray Lewis.

I think they are paid too much. Ozzie Newsome tends to use the deadline pressure to try to get deals done. Also, their chief negotiator Pat Moriarty, a former banker and NFL player, drives a hard bargain. The Ravens tend to set a number and not deviate from it much at all.

Question: With the new offensive system in place, what personnel changes are the Ravens looking at in terms of bringing in players who fit the system in the draft?

Answer: I think they will be looking for some players who can stretch the field a little bit and some players who can fit John Matsko's blocking system.

Question: Do you think the Ravens will bring in another QB, and, if so, who? Also, do you forsee us making a push for either Brady Quinn or Matt Leinart with our second round pick as trade bait or is it more likely we draft a QB?

Answer: I think they will look to draft a quarterback as high as the second round, perhaps Joe Flacco or Andre Woodson, but I wouldn't expect a blockbuster deal for Donovan McNabb. Too expensive, too many picks and the Philadelphia Eagles don't seem inclined to trade McNabb.

Question: How much do you think the new assistants are an improvement over the old ones? At what positions are the coaches now significantly better?

Answer: I think it's a significant upgrade at offensive coordinator obviously with Cam Cameron. I think it's roughly the same at quarterbacks coach or slightly better. I think it's a wash at receivers coach. I think it's a small upgrade at running backs coach. I think the offensive line coach is a major upgrade over Chris Foerster. I think keeping Wade Harman is a solid move since he works well with Todd Heap and the other tight ends. I think the defense is better for having Chuck Pagano as the secondary coach. I think the continuity is very good with Rex Ryan, Clarence Brooks, Mike Pettine. I think Greg Mattison has a chance to be a very good linebackers coach despite his inexperience at the NFL level.

Question: There were rumblings last year that Willis was wearing down later in games last year. Since Cam loves to use the running backs often in his offense, Is McGahee up for the extra work?

Answer: There were a few rumors that Willis McGahee needed to get more rest the night before games on a few occasions, especially Buffalo. I thought McGahee's endurance improved as the season went on. I think he wll be up to the task.

Question: With a new offensive philosophy, who, in your opinion, stands the best chance to have the type of season that will make the baltimore fans sit up and say; "WOW! where's that guy been?"

Answer: I could envision Todd Heap bouncing back in a big way as well as Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams.

Question: Has there been any word on Jared Gaither this off-season & will he have a shot to start at LT next season?

Answer: I've heard he's been working fairly hard and the coaching staff plans to give him a long look. He was fairly disappointing as a rookie, but he hasn't played much football and had a big adjustment to make. I could see him operating as a swing player between left and right. At this point, he's not better than Adam Terry at left tackle or Marshal Yanda at right tackle.

Question: I'd kind of like to know Troy Smith's status with the new coaching regime. Does he get a chance to compete to move up the depth chart, or is he a guy just fighting for a spot?

Answer: They have made zero comments on Troy Smith at all other than noncommittal comments. I think they'll have an open mind toward the former Heisman Trophy winner.

Question: Now that the coaching staff is in place, have you gotten any intel on the staffs current player evaluations? What is the status of the evaluations? When do they expect to complete? Any word on surprises or disappointments in the evaluations to date, etc.?

Answer: I've heard they've been pleasantly surprised by talent that's on the roster. There hasn't been a ton of detail. Harbaugh has been extremely close-mouthed. At some point, he's going to have to be more forthcoming on what he really thinks.

Question: Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams had forgettable seasons last year. Is it safe to say the Ravens need another weapon outside, or was it really just injuries that slowed them down?

Answer: I think you can't chalk it all up to injuries even though these are both promising young players. I'm beginning to worry about their durability and toughness.

Question: If you were predicting the order of the Ravens draft as of today, which would be the priorities by round assuming the picks are QB, CB, OL and DE/DT? I now this depends on BPA, but I am wondering if an OL is possible for 1st round? And, this has an impact on Gaither's role, I'm sure.

Answer: The priorities I'm going to rank are just my opinion, not necessarily what they'll do based on what's available and value since I'm not able to predict the future on what the other teams will do. I think the Ravens would like to get a pass rusher or an offensive linemen in the first round and a cornerback or a quarterback in the second round.

Question: Who are the most likely cap casualties for the Ravens?

Answer: Mike Anderson, Mike Flynn, maybe Samari Rolle.

Question: Also, a new coaching staff will often bring in a couple of players familiar with his system to help ease the transition. Any ideas on who could fit that role for Harbaugh and/or Cameron?

Answer: I'm not sensing that they're going to bring in any sage veterans to do that at this point. I'm told the team is essentially going to be relatively unchanged for the most part.

Question: Any inside scoop on the status of Mike Flynn, Samari Rolle, JO, McNair and Mason for next season? Any other prospective cuts for retirement or salary cap purposes?

Answer: I could see Flynn retiring or getting cut, but not definitely. I could see Samari Rolle being cut, but only if they find an adequate replacement or commit to drafting a cornerback fairly high. I think J.O. will retire, but it wouldn't shock me if he returned. I think Steve McNair will be evaluated during the offseason and likely brought to training camp to see if he can bounce back. Derrick Mason is a lock as a starting wide receiver.

Question: Chris Chester...does he have a chance on our OL and where? Answer: Only at center, though. Too small to play guard, in my opinion.

Question: JO...is he coming back?

Answer: Maybe, but it's doubtful. Far from a lock that he's going to play again. His toe is still bothering him, which is the biggest factor.

Question: McNair...can he be effective and play quality football or is he shot?

Answer: In my opinion, he's too injury-prone and too weak-armed to play at an elite level anymore. Can he get by with his savvy? Maybe, but I wouldn't stake the fate of the team on him anymore.

Question: Mike Anderson...will he get cut? PJ Daniels still have a shot at 2nd in command?

Answer: Mike Anderson should be cut, but they haven't indicated yet if they will cut him. P.J. Daniels hasn't shown much. Maybe he'll get a fresh start with a new staff. I think he has some potential.

Question: How's Heap, CMac and Trevor Pyrce's health? Answer: Todd Heap is healing up well. My understanding is that Chris McAlister was going to have or would have some cleanup surgery. I think Trevor Pryce is recovering well and should be fine for next season.

Question: Any positions we will address in free agency?

Answers: They'd like to improve the offensive line, but it's so expensive to do that with veterans.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.


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