Ozzie Newsome 's quest to add a reliable corner to the Ravens started before the draft. The pursuit weighed on Ozzie and his staff's shoulders for months. Lots of study was part of the process, including researching every third, fourth and fifth corners on every NFL team.
The personnel staff also looked at veterans who might be available when a young corner on another team stepped up to possibly make a vet expendable.
All the work came to a peak when Oz pulled the trigger on a trade with Seattle on Tuesday that brought Josh Wilson, a Maryland product, to the Ravens. Despite the pressure of selecting the 53 players to make the team's roster, which must be completed by tomorrow, Oz took a moment yesterday in St. Louis to reflect on the pursuit of adding a corner.
"We weren't desperate, and we stayed patient, but we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get help at corner," Newsome said. "We wanted to add a corner in the draft, possibly even in the first round. When that didn't happen, we searched for a proven veteran. And, then the pressure really mounted when Domonique (Foxworth) went down on the first day of training camp. In the end, we got it done, but I can't say we slept well through the whole process – and that includes John (Harbaugh)."
Before last April's draft, Ozzie believed that a quality corner could be grabbed by the Ravens in the first or second rounds. "When we got to the 26th pick in the first (the Ravens' original spot), we didn't rate a corner high enough to be taken there, plus we only had five picks in a draft that we believed had a lot of quality players. So, we decided to trade down, and I believed at that time that we would get a corner we liked in the second round," Newsome explained.
That didn't happen.
After the trade of the 26th pick, the Ravens had the 43rd and 57th spots, both in the second round. "Some of the corners we liked came off the board before our picks. We still got high quality with Sergio (Kindle) and Terrence (Cody), but the corners we liked enough to take were already off the board," Newsome explained.
"In the fifth round, we liked a couple of corners, and we tried to trade up to get one of them, but couldn't find a match," Newsome continued. "Later in the fifth and sixth, we had a discussion with the defensive coaches to see if they had any corners they thought could develop, or even someone who might have some baggage, but would be worth a risk. No one jumped on the table and claimed a guy."
After the draft, Ozzie and Co. didn't panic. "Remember, we signed a quality player like Willie Anderson the first week of the season a couple of years ago (2008), and he ended up starting for us and playing well," Newsome explained.
At this point, Oz turned to personnel director Eric DeCosta and pro personnel director Vincent Newsome* *to do a "Kelley Washington search." (A year ago, when the Ravens were searching for help at receiver, the Ravens brought in a number of veteran receivers for tryouts, and Washington was not only impressive in the audition, he ended up being fourth on the Ravens in receptions last season.)
Soon after, Baltimore invited Ken Hamlin, Walt Harris and Ken Lucas for tryouts, and then signed Harris and Hamlin.
"But, we weren't done," Ozzie added. "Once we signed (Marc) Bulger, we knew we had four good quarterbacks, and we started calling teams offering one of our quarterbacks for a corner. We got Doug Dutch from the Redskins for John Beck, but we knew that wasn't the end for us."
Newsome pointed out that Steve Bisciotti* *and John Harbaugh were very involved through the process. "Steve always knows the right questions to ask, and John's time as a secondary coach in Philadelphia gave him extra insight into the position."
"In the meantime," Ozzie laughed, "our first offense was just ripping our defense in some training camp practices. That made us only half happy. We even had a conversation about limiting the reps in practice for Fabian (Washington) and Chris Carr to help make sure they would be ready for the regular season opener.
"We were making calls and fielding calls from teams. We got offers of corners, but the price was always too steep," Newsome continued. "After our personnel staff talked about it, I met with John to discuss which of our players we would be willing to give up in a trade. We came up with three or four players.
"Then we got to the preseason games, and Cary Williams stepped up, plus Lardarius (Webb) was making good progess with his rehab," Oz said. "At that point, we decided that if we could get one quality corner in here for the start of the season, we'd be okay. We were probably offered eight to 10 corners, but our research, including the defensive coaches, didn't result in any love affairs.
"I was on the phone with Seattle. They had quality depth at corner, and they were willing to move one. We also had other offers. On Tuesday (Aug. 31), we had a meeting with Steve, 'Harbs,' Eric, Dick (Cass) and Pat (Moriarty). We talked about the trade opportunities for a corner – we had a couple of opportunities – and getting the roster to 53. Everyone agreed to go after Josh (Wilson).
"It took about five phone calls with the Seahawks, and we got it done," Newsome explained.
Not panicking early, being patient and not acting desperate are all things that Ozzie believes helped acquire Wilson. When I asked Oz if he felt it was absolutely necessary to add a veteran corner before the opener, he smiled: "We could have survived. It is about the next man up. John (Harbaugh) believes that and so do I. Cary (Williams) got more opportunities, and he showed us something. Even Haruki (Nakamura) showed he could cover a slot receiver like a corner. We could have survived…but I'm very happy we got Josh Wilson."
So are we, Oz. Thanks for sharing the story of the pursuit. I'll talk with all of you next week.
Kevin Byrne , a Ravens senior vice president, has worked in the NFL for 32 years. Byrne has been with the Ravens since the start of the franchise in 1996. Earlier in his career, Byrne was the sports information director at Marquette University, his alma mater, when they won the 1977 NCAA basketball championship under coach Al McGuire.