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Earlier this week, we took some fan questions regarding the upcoming draft process on the BaltimoreRavens.com message boards, and frequent commenter theFRANCHISE posed this interesting query:
"How do teams negotiate with one another on draft day? Do they have a specific phone for each team to prevent lines getting tied up? Do they only call the teams they're interested in negotiating a trade with, or do they have people making calls to send feelers out for trade offers? In general, how does the whole system work?"
Let me see if I can shed some light on the subject.
The draft room is a top-secret lair inside Ravens headquarters in Owings Mills, Md. While you can sometimes peek your head in during the season, once the team is finished playing, the draft room becomes off-limits for anyone that is not in coaching or personnel.
Still, the setup can be explained as such – think of a typical board room, with a long table in the middle spanning nearly from end to end. One wall is entirely covered with a dry-erase board. Two others are covered with rows of magnets, each stating an eligible player's name, school, position and size.
The magnets are organized from the Ravens' best prospect to the 150th-best. Another wall has a list of potential rookie free agent signees. As a player is drafted, the name comes off the board, so when the Ravens pick at No. 25 this year, they can simply look at the board and take the best player in their rankings.
But that is when there are no trades, and as we have seen in the recent past – as in two first-round trades to select Joe Flacco in 2008, or jumping up three spots to nab Michael Oher last year – movement is a part of the business.
For the Ravens, general manager Ozzie Newsome is the point man when it comes to trades. There is one main phone positioned next to Newsome with multiple lines on it. Having one phone for every team would just take up too much space. Ozzie will be the one to gauge trade talk as he fields and places calls. That phone is also the one passed around the room when the pick is actually made.
Sometimes, the ringer is quiet. Other times, specifically as the round gets closer and closer to the Ravens' pick, the lines will heat up. Whether or not the Ravens do make a trade depends on the value of the move, and there is always discussion.
On draft day, the fourth wall (on the right side of the room) is covered by a projection screen that features draft coverage, so the Ravens know what's going on at all times. Newsome sits at the head of the table with owner Steve Bisciotti*on his left and director of player personnel Eric DeCostaand director of college scouting Joe Hortiz on his right. Head coach John Harbaugh is obviously in there, along with the Ravens' three coordinators, Cam Cameron, Greg Mattison and Jerry Rosburg*.
Ravens president Dick Cass and vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty sit in, as does senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne. In addition, former owner Art Modell is a regular. Since the Ravens like to draft with a consensus, Newsome is not averse to feedback from others regarding a trade or pick.
But once the Ravens are ready to make that pick, a scout will relay the selection to two representatives who are on the floor at Radio City Music Hall in New York, making sure to spell out each name carefully. The Ravens' reps will then write that name on a card and give it to a runner, who officially submits the pick.
When those magic words – "With the XX pick in the NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens select…" – it's a round of congratulatory handshakes and back slaps back in the war room.
All that is left is one more phone call, this time to the newest Raven.
"It's our Super Bowl," DeCosta said. "It's why we do what we do. The draft is our lifeblood. You're bringing in babies and watching them grow up, hopefully to be good football players."