The Baltimore Ravens retreated out of the first round for thesecond time in three years, a strategy that provided them more ammunition interms of draft picks and still allows them to potentially land one of theircoveted prospects.
It wasn't a hasty move.
It was a calculated reaction after the New England Patriotsdrafted two intriguing defensive players by maneuvering up to draft versatileAlabama middle linebacker Dont'a Hightower and Syracuse defensive end ChandlerJones, the younger brother of Ravens defensive lineman Arthur Jones
Despite trading the 29th overall pick of the first round to theMinnesota Vikings in exchange for the Vikings' second-round draft pick at 35thoverall and the Vikings' fourth-round pick at 98th overall, the Ravens couldstill get one of the players they had targeted for the first round.
That includes Alabama All-American hybrid pass rusher CourtneyUpshaw, Wisconsin center Peter Konz and athletic Georgia Tech wide receiverStephen Hill.
Despite not having added any new players to the roster yet,general manager Ozzie Newsome said he regarded it as a productive night.
"We had some guys that if we were stuck at 29, we could havepicked one them," Newsome said late Thursday.
"One of those guys is still available to us and could be availableat that 35th pick. You can't control what's going to happen. When you watch theboard come off the way it, to have the ability to go back and acquire anotherplayer and still get a player you probably would have taken at your pick isgood business for us.
"We had a couple of teams call us and we had several playersthat we liked that are still available for us. To be able to pick up that 98thpick from Minnesota, we think that's just going to be another good player forus. Or we could take that pick and use it to move back up in the second or thethird to get another player. We still have players that we like and that's oneof the reasons we felt very good about moving back, still thinking that wecould get one of those players."
Other highly-regarded players that are still available: Universityof Georgia offensive tackle-guard Cordy Glenn, Midwestern State offensive guardAmini Silatolu, Stanford offensive tackle Jonathan Martin, Ohio State offensivetackle Mike Adams, LSU wide receiver Rueben Randle and Clemson defensiveend-outside linebacker Andre Branch.
Newsome declined to say how many of the nine players that heinitially thought would be available for the Ravens' original selection arestill around.
"I won’t divulge that, but we still had players that weliked," Newsome said. "And that’s the reason why we felt it was verygood, moving back, still thinking that we could get one of those players.”
The Ravens contemplated whether they should move up via a trade totry to nab Hightower, a punishing tackler.
Going off the board shortly before the Ravens would have been onthe clock in the first round: Illinois All-American defensive end WhitneyMercilus (Houston Texans, 26th overall) and gritty Wisconsin offensive guardKevin Zeitler (Cincinnati Bengals, 27th overall).
Ultimately, though, the Ravens preferred to bolster their totalnumber of picks to nine.
When asked whether Ravens thought about trading upward to try toget Hightower, Newsome replied without mentioning the 6-foot-3, 265-poundlinebacker's name.
"We talked about it," Newsome said. "There were acouple of players that we felt like we could trade up for, but it can getexpensive. There were a lot of trades and we felt better about going back.After a certain number of players went off the board, we felt that going backwould be a better benefit for us."
The Ravens have the third pick of the second round, following theSt. Louis Rams and the Indianapolis Colts.
The Rams could use a wide receiver and help on the offensive line.
Coached by former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, theColts could use help on defense for the 3-4 defense he's installing.
Now, the Ravens own two second-round draft picks (35th and 60thoverall), a third-rounder (91st overall), two fourth-rounders (98th and 130thoverall), two fifth-rounders (164th overall and 169th overall), a sixth-rounder(198th overall) and a seventh-rounder (236th overall.)
This marked the 11th consecutive year that the Ravens haveexecuted at least one trade and the fifth time in the past seven years thatthey have traded their first-rounder.
Three years ago, they moved up to get offensive tackle MichaelOher.
Four years ago, the Ravens moved around to draft quarterback JoeFlacco.
And six years ago, the Ravens moved up one spot to get defensivetackle Haloti Ngata.
Two years ago, the Ravens packaged their 25th overall pick to theDenver Broncos, who drafted quarterback Tim Tebow, in exchange for three picksthat they used to wind up with outside linebacker Sergio Kindle as well astight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta.
"It’s really who the player is, and who are the other playersaround him," Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta said priorto the draft. "You’ll never see us trade up to get a player unless wethink clearly he’s by far the best player that’s still there. If it's close andthere are other players there, then we’ll stay and pick.
"There’s nobody that covets picks more than the BaltimoreRavens. And so, the notion of giving up a pick is pretty distasteful for us,unless the player is pretty darn good.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was obviously intent on upgradinghis oft-maligned defense.
To get Hightower, the Patriots sent their 31st overall pick of thefirst round and a fourth-round pick to the Broncos.
"We started to hear that the two players they really likedwere Chandler Jones and Hightower," Newsome said.
"Hey, one thing about Bill: All year long, people talkedabout how bad their defense was. Bill is a defensive coordinator by heart. So,he got really good in his front seven with Chandler Jones and Hightower."
"I thought we had a good day," Belichick told NewEngland reporters. "As usual, the draft always takes some interestingtwists and turns. You just never know how it’s going to go. As the players cameof the board, we were able to execute some trades there and still hang on toour second-round picks, which, I thought if we moved up I wasn’t sure if wewould be able to do that."
Meanwhile, nothing has changed for the Ravens in terms of needs.
They still need offensive linemen, particularly interior blockersafter the departure of Pro Bowl offensive guard Ben Grubbs via a $36 millionfree agent deal with the New Orleans Saints.
Konz could operate as an immediate left guard candidate and begroomed as a future successor to six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk. Konz, whodealt with a dislocated ankle last season that prevented him from working outat the NFL scouting combine, visited and worked out for the Ravens.
The Ravens' defense could use another pass rusher to work intandem with Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs. Upshaw could fit thatbill after leadingthe Crimson Tide with 17 tackles for losses and 8 1/2 sackslast season.
The Ravens are impressed with Hill's size and athleticism. He's6-foot-4, 215 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds, tools for thegame that can't be taught.
Linebacker, safety and running back are other positions on theRavens' agenda.
Potential second-round targets for the Ravens at inside linebackerthat are still available: Cal's Mychal Kendricks and Utah State's Bobby Wagner.
First, though, the Ravens could have a good shot at draftingUpshaw early in the second round.
Upshaw was invited to New York along with his four Alabamateammates that went in the first round, including Hightower, running back TrentRichardson, safety Mark Barron and cornerback Dre' Kirkpatrick.
"He's going to keep his head up regardless of what round hegoes," Hightower told reporters in New York.
"Courtney's a hell of a player. Regardless of what round hegoes, whenever he gets to the league and puts his pads on, he's going to be agood player. It was a big surprise to see Courtney not get drafted. It's adisappointment, but wherever he goes, he's going to make plays."