OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Ravens have the 29th pick in the NFL draft, so there's not a lot of drama surrounding the team's first-round pick. Here are my impressions from Baltimore's pre-draft press conference:
The Ravens are open to trading up or down in the first round, and their history suggests they will do it again. Over the past four drafts, Baltimore has made a trade in the first round three times and nearly did it for a fourth straight year if not for the draft-day debacle with the Bears last year. The Ravens, though, won't trade up more than 10 spots. “It’s really who the player is and who the other players are around him,” said Eric DeCosta, Baltimore’s director of player personnel. “You’ll never see us trade up to get a player unless we think clearly he’s by far he’s the best player there.”
General manager Ozzie Newsome was honest when he named the team's biggest draft needs: offensive line, wide receiver, depth in the pass rush and strong-side linebacker. Even though coach John Harbaugh once again spoke about how Jah Reid can take over at left guard, I'm thinking the Ravens want a highly rated prospect like Georgia's Cordy Glenn to fall to them. When asked about interior linemen, DeCosta mentioned four names: Glenn, Stanford guard David DeCastro, Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler and Wisconsin center-guard Peter Konz.
The Ravens acknowledged they probably won't sign another player in free agency until after the draft. Baltimore only has $1.7 million in salary-cap room (third smallest in the NFL), but Newsome said that won't stop them from making a move. "Regardless of what the number we are at the cap, we have a plan," Newsome said. "We talk about the cap every day. If there is a good player that can come in and help our football team, we will be able to fit him under our cap."
Baltimore officials appear resigned to the fact that running back Ray Rice won't be attending any offseason team activities. Rice, who has yet to sign his franchise tag, said yesterday that he hasn't decided if he will skip team workouts. "Up until a guy actually signs his franchise tender, he's not under contract and we're not even allowed to ask him to our mandatory minicamp," Newsome said. "We understand those things and lived them through [Terrell] Suggs, Chris [McAlister] and even Wally Williams. We've experienced that before. Would Coach Harbaugh want 100 percent participation in every offseason program and every OTA and every minicamp? Yes he would. But he knows that unrealistic also."
I get the feeling that the Ravens are privately pleased by Joe Flacco's comments that he is "the best" quarterback in the NFL. There was talk last year that the Ravens waited to start negotiations on an extension with Flacco to motivate him for the 2011 season. Now, by making such a bold statement, Flacco has to live up to those words this year. "I don't think there is any player, any coach and any GM who doesn't think they're not the best at what they do," Newsome said. "If you make a statement like that, you have to prepare yourself to be the best. I am sure Joe is also doing that."