Owner Art Modell said yesterday that unless the team can acquire at least an additional second-round pick, the Ravens are highly unlikely to trade down from their No. 5 overall position in the first round of the NFL draft next Saturday.
The Ravens also have the No. 15 selection in the first round as well as the 14th pick in the second round. They have had preliminary talks with the Denver Broncos (No. 10 overall) and New York Giants (No. 11), but it's unlikely a deal, if any, would be agreed upon until the day before or the day of the draft.
In the past four years, the Ravens have entertained offers about trading down in the first round from the Nos. 4 and 10 overall positions, but have not done so. Modell said he is in favor of keeping the first pick.
"We're not virgins in the trading-down category. We have done that very often and successfully," said Modell, alluding to the franchise's days in Cleveland. "[But] when you trade down, you're gambling twice. You're gambling at the [player] you may get in the traded-down stock. Then you're wondering who you're going to get with the traded-down choice.
"It's a double jeopardy. If we can find the man that pleases Ozzie [Newsome, vice president of player personnel] and his people and Brian [Billick, coach] with that fifth selection, we're going to stand pat unless someone reaches out at the last minute and gives us a blockbuster offer. That's been done before. Ask Mike Ditka."
When asked what constituted a blockbuster deal, Modell said: "If somebody came along and said they would give us a second-round pick, then I would be insane not to give them a hard look. Blockbuster would be trading our pick for someone's sixth or seventh [in the first round], and adding a deuce."
The ideal situation would be for the Ravens to trade down in the first round and get a second-round pick because Billick has said this is a quality draft that goes into the second and third rounds. It is also a draft loaded with receivers, running backs and offensive linemen, which caters to the Ravens' needs.
"Clearly, if we give Brian the players, he can win," Modell said. "We're on the cusp, close to becoming a very good football team. We're going to need this draft and a few more free-agent acquisitions."
The Ravens still had members of their coaching staff out on the road filing last-minute scouting reports, according to Newsome. He is expected to meet with scouts this morning and then with Modell in the afternoon. Newsome said he will make final recommendations and lay out the draft board to ownership next Friday.
"We've had calls [from teams] for us to move back from five to six through 20," Newsome said. "We've also had calls from people wanting to know if we were willing to move from 15 back into the top 10. There are several things cooking, nothing concrete. Right now, we're in the fourth session of meetings with the scouts and nothing is finalized."
The Ravens' draft also could be affected by the addition of Cincinnati Bengals running back Corey Dillon to the squad. The Ravens have been in contact with Dillon's agent, Marvin Demoff, but have not prepared an offer sheet to Dillon, a restricted free agent. The deadline for Dillon to sign the sheet is Monday, and then the Bengals would have the opportunity to match the offer. If the Ravens sign Dillon, a wide receiver would become the team's No. 1 priority.
Ravens officials also said Pro Bowl middle linebacker Ray Lewis' status will have no impact on draft decisions. Lewis and two co-defendants are scheduled to be tried May 15 on charges of assault and murder in connection with the stabbing deals of Jacinth Baker, 21, and Richard Lollar, 24, on Jan. 31 in Atlanta.
"Any moves regarding linebackers will be made because that's in the general interest of upgrading the team, and has nothing to do with the Ray Lewis situation," Billick said. "One of the things I said at the end of the year was we wanted to address in the off-season the depth at the linebacking position. Clearly, we have one of the best linebacking corps in the league with Ray Lewis, Jamie Sharper and Peter Boulware, but I would clearly like to come out of this draft with a linebacker who can play and also help us on special teams."
Modell was confident that Lewis would be cleared of all charges.
"I've been in a touch with the attorneys down there on a weekly basis," Modell said. "I share their enthusiasm for a clean bill of health to come out of the court. There is no guarantee about clean bills or any bill of health in Georgia or anywhere else, but I think the evidence will support his exoneration and I expect him to play for us this year, and we're very hopeful that will be the case."