New perch?

The Baltimore Sun

Instead, the Ravens have made some of their most notable offseason moves for veterans with trades in recent years. Quarterback Steve McNair and running back Willis McGahee are obvious examples. Also, it's probably instructional to recall that in both cases, the other teams involved - the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills, respectively - were in a position where they needed to unload the player in question.

Which brings us to the situation in Philadelphia, where the Eagles just landed former New England Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel, who was considered the biggest catch of the free-agent class. It was slightly surprising because the Eagles have two good mid-career corners in Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown. Upon announcing Samuel's signing, the Eagles immediately handed him the left cornerback job, Sheppard's old post.

You probably see where this is going. Something might have to give in Philly unless they're content with keeping three front-line corners while they have pressing needs at wide receiver and defensive end. Meanwhile, here in Baltimore, both of the Ravens' starting cornerbacks will be older than 30 this season, and both missed considerable time last year, with disastrous consequences. And, of course, the new Ravens coach, John Harbaugh, is the Eagles' old defensive backs coach.

Something of a concern is that Sheppard - who was displaced by Samuel and is considered the better cover corner - has missed 14 games in the past three seasons, including five in 2007. When he plays, he's terrific, actually Pro Bowl caliber (17 interceptions in 77 games), but Brown has been more durable (he hasn't missed a game in six seasons). Sheppard is 27 next season and Brown 29 (compared with the Ravens' Chris McAlister, 31, and Samari Rolle, 32).

The real problem is how inflated Philadelphia's opinion of Sheppard's trade value might be, if he's the one to go. They're talking a No. 1 wide receiver, a top pass rusher or a first-round draft pick up in Philadelphia. I don't see the Ravens coming up with those kinds of goods. But a trade for a cornerback would ease the need to draft high at that position and allow the Ravens to go after some of their needs. One thing the Ravens have exhibited in these circumstances is patience and prudence. And based on recent results, no one has picked Newsome's pocket yet.

bill.ordine@baltsun.com

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