The two names you read here and pretty much everywhere else in the days leading up to the draft as it related to the Ravens and their original 29th overall pick were Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower and Wisconsin center Peter Konz. As it turns out, neither was as high on the Ravens' draft board as we all thought. In a live chat yesterday on the Ravens' team website, www.baltimoreravens.com, director of player personnel Eric DeCosta said that the team had about seven players that it really liked in the first round and Hightower was "not one of the players that we would have traded to get." Again, that doesn't mean that the Ravens weren't interested in Hightower, but it does make it pretty clear that they liked several other players better. As for Konz, DeCosta said that that they think he's going to be a very good player, but they had other players, including Courtney Upshaw, rated higher. My take on it is if the Ravens really liked Konz as much as we thought they did, they would have been willing to trade up five or six spots in the second round to make sure they got him. They did it for running back Bernard Pierce in the third round, even though that didn't cost as much as it would have to move up and grab Konz. Instead, the Atlanta Falcons selected Konz with the 23rd pick in the second round, and five picks later, the Ravens took Iowa State guard Kelechi Osemele. I guess the moral of the story is don't believe everything you hear around draft time. Teams, especially ones that take the draft as seriously as the Ravens do, simply aren't going to expose their hand until it's absolutely necessary.
Once I heard John Harbaugh used the words "asterisk," "stained" and "New England" in the same sentence during a radio interview with 98 Rock yesterday morning, I knew what the reaction was going to be. Any NFL player or coach that says something even semi-interesting about Spygate or the New Orleans Saints' bounty situation becomes a headline. Anybody who is perceived to challenge the success of Patriots coach Bill Belichick is going to be greatly scrutinized. I get it, as my old friend Buck Showalter likes to say. But did Harbaugh honestly say something that was especially revealing or untrue? Did he mount a personal attack on Belichick? No, what he did do was capture the reality of the post-Spygate world for the Patriots. Whether they like or not, there are going to be some people in the NFL – and plenty of fans – who believe that their three Super Bowls are in some way tainted. After listening to Harbaugh praise Belichick at every opportunity over the years and knowing that they have a solid relationship, I don't believe the Ravens coach to be one of those people. I also don't blame him for acknowledging the obvious: that Spygate – whether New Englanders like it or not, whether it is fair or not – is going to be part of the legacy of those Super Bowl-winning Patriots' teams. It may turn out to be a very small part, but when all is said and done and Belichick calls it quits on his Hall of Fame career, his role in that scandal will undoubtedly be included in stories in his career postscript. As for Harbaugh, he probably could have chosen his words a little more carefully, but let's be honest here: those remarks were rather benign.
Another thing that I found pretty interesting about DeCosta's chat on the team's website: he answered a fan question about whether the team has interest in recently released wide receiver Jabar Gaffney by saying, "I think at this point, we're happy with the receivers we have on the roster. We expect big things this year from David Reed and Tandon Doss. It's unlikely that we'll look for any receivers on the streets." That answer surprised me slightly because while the Ravens have a ton of receivers on the roster, all of them are essentially untested behind Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. The Ravens don't have much money to spend, but I still could see them bringing in a veteran receiver either before or during training camp. Gaffney would be a good fit, and so might Jacoby Jones, who was also released yesterday by the Houston Texans. Jones, whose fumble set up a big Ravens' score in the playoffs last year, is a pretty explosive returner assuming he holds onto the ball.
The Ravens will sign kicker/punter and undrafted free agent Justin Tucker, who hit 40 of 48 field goals during his last two seasons at Texas. Nothing against Tucker, but I'd still expect them to bring in a little more formidable and veteran competition for Billy Cundiff. The New York Jets signed Josh Brown yesterday to push the inconsistent Nick Folk for the kicking job. I would be surprised if the Ravens didn't do something similar. Maybe, that means signing Shayne Graham again. Either way, you not only want to push Cundiff, you want to have some insurance if the problems that he had last year persist into the preseason.
Speaking of undrafted free agents, two potential signings definitely worth keeping an eye on are defensive tackles Nicolas Jean-Baptiste out of Baylor, and Ishmaa'ily Kitchen of Kent State. Both are 335-pound guys who can clog the middle and be factors in the run game. After losing Cory Redding and Brandon McKinney to free agency, the Ravens will have some opportunities available to crack their defensive line rotation.
In case you missed this little bit of news about a former Ravens' executive, Phil Savage has been named executive director of the Senior Bowl. Savage worked in the Ravens' front office for nine seasons, serving as director of college scouting and then director of player personnel before becoming the general manager of the Cleveland Browns. Most recently, Savage has served as a player personnel executive for the Philadelphia Eagles.