NFL Draft: Baltimore Ravens hope to cash in on rare high pick

By The Sports Xchange  |  Feb. 25, 2016 at 3:21 PM
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The Baltimore Ravens have their highest draft pick since 2000 and team officials are hopeful they can lay the groundwork to rebound quickly from last season's disappointing season.

At this week's NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Baltimore's coaches will get an up-close look at several players that could make an immediate impact.

The Ravens have the sixth overall pick after finishing 5-11 in 2015. In addition, the team could have as many as 10 selections depending on how many compensatory picks they are awarded in March.

This is good news for Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, who has numerous holes to fill on the current roster. The Ravens could use a pass rusher, a playmaking wide receiver, a shutdown cornerback and depth on the offensive line. Baltimore has been closely linked to Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa and Florida defensive back Jalen Ramsey.

"We are picking six, and the first night of the draft, we will have six players graded and be ready to pick one of those six," Newsome said. "Five could go and one of them will be left for us. That's the way we operate. We have to come up with six really good football players that we feel could come in and help the Baltimore Ravens this year."

The team is currently handicapped by quarterback Joe Flacco's $28.5 million cap hit this season. Newsome will meet with Flacco's agent this week to discuss restructuring the deal to make it more cap-friendly. The Ravens also have 27 pending free agents, most notably kicker Justin Tucker, guard/tackle Kelechi Osemele and linebacker Courtney Upshaw.

Consequently, Newsome has a lot of work to do in a short amount of time.

"This is the time of year we make tough decisions," Newsome said. "Between now and March 9, we will make some. I don't know who they are or who they are going to be. But we do have to make some decisions."

Injuries decimated the Ravens' roster in 2015, which helped lead to a third-place finish in the AFC North. It was also the second worst season in franchise history.

Despite the challenges this season, the Ravens still had 14 games decided by eight points or fewer, which tied with the 1994 Giants for the most in NFL history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Ravens are confident a few more playmakers on both sides of the ball will sway the pendulum the other way this season.

--Tight end Nick Boyle was suspended without pay for the first 10 games of the 2016 regular season for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances. It is already the first-year player's second offense. Boyle was also suspended for the final four games of the 2015 rookie season for the same infraction.

The Ravens have not commented on the latest suspension. However, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh confirmed after the first violation that the banned substance was not steroids.

"It's pretty common," Harbaugh said about the substance. "It's what you read about all the time with guys. I don't think he realized that it was something he shouldn't be doing. Or if he did, he didn't think it through."

It remains to be seen if the coach is as forgiving the second time around. If Boyle is retained by Baltimore, he is eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games.

--The Ravens are beginning negotiations with Joe Flacco's agent Joe Linta to discuss restructuring the quarterback's contract, according to Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome.

Flacco signed a six-year, $120.6 million extension in March 2013. He has the third highest salary-cap number in the NFL at $28.55 million this season. If that number is not renegotiated, the Ravens would be limited in what they can do in free agency beginning March 9.

As it stands, Flacco would make $58.6 million over the final three years of his deal.

Newsome said at the Combine the team is prepared to move ahead with improving the roster even if they cannot lower Flacco's cap number.

"We are in a position where we can be very active in free agency without having to get something done with Joe," Newsome said.

Flacco was lost for the season when he tore his ACL and MCL on Nov. 22 against the St. Louis Rams. Over 10 games, Flacco threw for 2,791 with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

He expects to be ready for the start of the 2016 season. Flacco appeared prepared to renegotiate his deal shortly after the season.

"You know this day is going to come no matter what you do," said Flacco, who is entering the fourth of his six-year deal. "There's no way of getting around a big cap number at some point, or a consistently big cap number. You know the first few years of my deal, the cap number wasn't very big, so you don't really have any other way around it but then to have a monster one at the end of it."

--Baltimore will reportedly sign running back Trent Richardson, the former No. 3 overall pick of the Cleveland Browns who hasn't panned out in the NFL. He also had a stint with the Indianapolis Colts and was cut by the Oakland Raiders prior to the 2015 season.

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