OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens ran a reverse Thursday night, retreating out of the first round in a bold trade with the Denver Broncos to stockpile selections in a rich draft.
The Dallas Cowboys leapfrogged the Ravens in a trade with the New England Patriots to land talented, controversial wide receiver Dez Bryant.
And with Bryant no longer available the Ravens decided to trade their 25th overall selection to Denver in exchange for the Broncos’ second-round pick (43rd overall), third-round pick (70th overall) and fourth-round pick (114th overall). And the Broncos grabbed University of Florida star quarterback Tim Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy winner.
It’s an unprecedented move for the Ravens to trade out of the first round. The only other time they’ve lacked a first-round pick was in 2004 following a trade to acquire Kyle Boller the previous year.
“Draft picks are a little bit like currency, and we have a little bit more money now to pick,” Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta said. “We’re excited, but there is a little bit of uneasiness because we don’t know who we’re going to get. I thought I was going to be able to sleep tonight knowing who our first-round pick was.
“Now, I’m going to be up all night again, waiting until 6 p.m. From that standpoint, the new format makes it a little frustrating. As Ozzie said, let’s call the commissioner and let’s keep this thing going. We’re fired up.”
The Broncos’ passion for Tebow was so evident that the Ravens were able to get maximum value as they haggled over the trade terms.
Newsome indicated that he was so enamored of the Broncos’ offer, which he said was increased a few times, that he would likely have executed the trade even if Bryant was available.
Bryant has been downgraded for his character issues, including reports of chronic lateness and a troubled background with a mother who’s a convicted drug dealer.
“That offer was so good that if Dez Bryant doesn’t get picked in front of us and makes it to us we probably would have still made the trade,” Newsome said. “We had a chance to move up to that spot to get Dez Bryant and we decided against it.”
Newsome said that he had dialogue with the Broncos, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Patriots for the past two weeks with the Broncos making their initial formal offer Thursday morning. During the draft, Newsome asked the Broncos if they would improve their offer.
“We had some serious conversations with Denver,” Newsome said. “As the draft unfolded, they kept increasing the offer. We sat there and the offer got better. I guess they had their mind set on getting their quarterback.
“As we started to look at the board and understand where our football team is now and having the opportunity to get the extra picks, we always felt this was a pick that could be very beneficial to us if we had seven picks. Now, we have them.”
The move is logical considering that the Ravens entered this draft with only five total picks and currently hold seven selections. The Ravens entered the draft lacking a third-round pick and a fourth-round pick following the offseason trade for Pro Bowl wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
What’s curious about the move is the Ravens had the chance to grab several highly-rated players that had solid grades on their draft board.
They had their choice of Tennessee defensive tackle Dan Williams, who wound up going 26th overall to the Arizona Cardinals.
They also passed on Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty (New England, 27th overall), Penn State defensive lineman Jared Odrick (Miami Dolphins, 28th overall), Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson (New York Jets, 29th overall), Texas Christian hybrid pass rusher Jerry Hughes (Indianapolis Colts, 31st overall) and Florida State cornerback Patrick Robinson (New Orleans Saints, 32nd overall).
Hughes was an ultra-productive two-time consensus All-American who’s undersized, recording 26 ½ sacks and eight forced fumbles in his final two seasons.
“Some guys we really liked,” DeCosta said. “We’ve done this before where we traded back and still got the player we would have taken. There are certainly some players we really like. Otherwise, we would have probably stayed there and picked. It definitely wasn’t that hard of a decision based on the players available.”
Newsome indicated that at least one of the players they had graded as suitable for No. 25 overall has now been picked. Williams was graded as one of the draft’s top 15 players by many analysts.
Following the trade, the Ravens conducted discussions with the Colts (31nd overall) Saints (32nd) and the Minnesota Vikings (30th overall).
“We did make some calls, but all three of those teams chose to pick,” Newsome said.
The Ravens came out slightly ahead of the Broncos on the traditional trade value chart.
There are several intriguing options still available to the Ravens in the second round and third round today.
That includes massive Alabama nose guard Terrence “Mount” Cody, who visited the Ravens. Plus, highly regarded Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski didn’t go in the first round.
Texas outside linebacker-defensive end Sergio Kindle is still out there as well as Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap.
Other tight end options include Aaron Hernandez (Florida), Ed Dickson (Oregon), Jimmy Graham (Miami), Tony Moeaki (Iowa) and Dennis Pitta (Brigham Young).
The Ravens have several options at cornerback, including Virginia’s Chris Cook.
The Ravens have displayed a lot of interest in Cook lately, including a recent private workout with him conducted by secondary coach Chuck Pagano. Cook is an imposing, swift defensive back at 6-foot-2, 212 pounds.
Other cornerbacks still left include Dominique Franks (Oklahoma), Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (IUP), Jerome Murphy (South Florida) and Brandon Ghee (Wake Forest).
Plus, there are still plenty of wide receivers available like Illinois’ Arrelious Benn, LSU’s Brandon LaFell and USC’s Damian Williams. It’s believed that Syracuse’s Mike Williams has been downgraded on draft boards due to character issues.
Newsome said he has already been made an offer for his first second-round pick.
“We’re a team that historically has built through the draft,” DeCosta said. “We knew back in September this would be a very strong draft, and it’s proven to be a strong draft. We wanted more picks. Our scouts and coaches are very excited. We see [Friday] as a great opportunity for this organization to get better.”
NOTE: Newsome said he hasn’t conducted trade discussions with any other teams about players on the roster. There have been trade rumors surrounding offensive tackle Jared Gaither, running back Willis McGahee and wide receiver Mark Clayton. There hasn’t been anything concrete, though, as far as trade discussions.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.