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Newsome Making the Grade in Free Agency


The Ravens lost a lot via free agency this year.

Linebacker Bart Scott, center Jason Brown, safety Jim Leonhard, and cornerbacks Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister - who all started games for Baltimore in 2008 - were released. Scott, Brown and Leonhard even signed with other teams.

But as big as a blow their departures seem to be, Ravens general manager **Ozzie Newsome** is receiving national attention for quickly reloading.

In his latest offseason report card,'s AFC North blogger, James Walker, gave Newsome a solid B for corralling cornerback **Domonique Foxworth**, center **Matt Birk**, tight end **L.J. Smith** and defensive back/return specialist **Chris Carr**.

Walker also admitted that he nearly upped the grade to a B , but letting so much proven talent leave was troubling. Still, the influx of new blood is promising.

"I thought the B was very representative of what they've done," Walker said Wednesday in a phone interview. "But, if you look at the contracts of the guys they signed, they are significantly cheaper than the guys that went out, and they are probably going to get a similar amount of production - if not even higher in the case of Foxworth.

"I think it was a good job by Ozzie to not only plug those holes, but to do it in a more cost-effective fashion."

It should also be noted how Newsome applied the franchise tag to linebacker **Terrell Suggs**, keeping him in place for at least another year as both sides work out a long-term contract, and brought 10-time Pro Bowler **Ray Lewis** back.

Such moves allow the Ravens enter the draft with a roster that is very close to completion. There is still a long offseason of minicamps and Organized Team Activities (OTAs) to stack the depth chart, but having a general idea of how it will look on opening day is a great benefit.

The current situation is a far cry from last year, when the Ravens had a glaring need at quarterback and went into draft weekend with both Matt Ryan and **Joe Flacco** rated highly.

"It gives you the luxury of choosing the best available player," Walker explained. "Last year, they were sort of in a hole because they didn't have a quarterback and really had to get one. I think they wanted either Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco, so they moved down and back up to take Flacco, and I think that really prevented their flexibility.

"This year, they don't really have that one huge need like they did last year. They can go in a lot of different directions with the pick because they've filled many of their needs."

The Ravens currently own the 26th-overall selection, and Walker believes they would have an opportunity to select a wideout with size, like Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey or Hakeem Nicks from North Carolina, or add depth to other positions.

"A good receiver will be there at 26, whether it's Heyward-Bey or Nicks," said Walker. "I don't think Percy Harvin is the right fit, because he's a smaller guy.

"Whatever the case, there's going to be a good player available there, and it doesn't even have to be a receiver. What about a corner? What about a middle linebacker or an offensive lineman?"

Meanwhile, Walker also predicted that Scott will excel with the New York Jets and new head coach Rex Ryan, who was Scott's defensive coordinator in Baltimore.

If so, the "Mad Backer" would differ from former Raven Edgerton Hartwell, the last player to cash in via free agency after seeing massive success playing next to Lewis. After totaling at least 90 tackles from 2002-04, Hartwell signed with the Atlanta Falcons in 2005, but only notched 63 stops in 13 games over the next two seasons.

Scott has topped the century mark in tackles every year since 2005 and even earned a trip to the 2006 Pro Bowl.

"Having his defensive coordinator with him is going to help Bart," Walker said of the former undrafted free agent. "Bart, to me, was the definition of a Raven. He's a smart football player, very hard-nosed and willing to do anything. He was what **John Harbaugh** and Ozzie Newsome would call a 'Raven.' I think he's going to take that with him to New York."

Time will only tell if Newsome's newest additions will also earn Harbaugh and Newsome's title of 'Raven' for their play, but as Walker's initial grade can attest, the early returns are pretty good.

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