Ravens head coach John Harbaugh held court this week at the NFL Owners Meeting in Dana Point, Calif.
Chatting with reporters during the media breakfast, Harbaugh was grilled about his and general manager Ozzie Newsome's strategy heading into April's NFL Draft.
This year, the Ravens, who currently possess the No. 26 pick and five more after that, have the luxury of selecting the top player available because there doesn't seem to be any glaring holes on last year's 11-5 club.
Harbaugh explained that Newsome and the Ravens' personnel group - also led by director of player personnel Eric DeCosta - meticulously assemble a ranking of all prospects after watching hours of film and conducting several workouts and interviews.
"That way we can make our board and keep it honest and pure," Harbaugh told the media in attendance. "We can truly take the best available player, get the six best players we can and get better as a football team. And then, if you have a need at the position, if it's close, you take the need.
In the 2008 draft, things were somewhat different. Harbaugh had just been hired, and Baltimore was in need of a quarterback. With two signal callers clearly separating themselves from the pack - Matt Ryan from Boston College and Delaware's Joe Flacco - the Ravens had to decide what they would do at No. 8.
The Atlanta Falcons ended up taking Ryan third overall, prompting the Ravens to trade back in the draft to No. 26, collecting an extra pick in the process, and then back up to No. 18, where Flacco fell to them.
And, it worked out well for the rookie duo, as both the Falcons and the Ravens made the playoffs.
"If you have a need at quarterback, you go there, because you're always chasing the quarterback," Harbaugh said of Ryan and Flacco. "We were fortunate enough last year where those two guys that were drafted turned out to be really good."
Harbaugh also noted that the Ravens had determined in the draft room they were set on selecting one of the two in the first round and would work to snare him.
"Those decisions have already been made, because you've hashed it all out as to whether you think he's a good player or not," he stated. "You've decided that you want him and he's going to be your guy. Then the haggling is how you are going to get him. Do you have to trade up, or do you have to trade back?
"We went through that last year. The whole discussion was, 'Do we trade up to get Matt Ryan? Do you take Joe Flacco at No. 8? Do you trade back to still get Joe Flacco and pick up some more picks?' That's what we were able to do. It was more strategic at that point."
Tomlin Points to Ravens
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin may have beaten the Ravens three times last year, but he apparently still greatly respects the team, as he picked Baltimore to win the AFC North.
"You have to like Baltimore," Tomlin said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "They won 11 games last year with a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback. They have a good football team.
"They have a great defense, they have a quarterback who proved he's their quarterback of the future, he's a guy on the rise. You have to respect that."
The Steelers defeated Baltimore 23-20 in overtime at home on Sept. 29, then again at M&T Bank Stadium on Dec. 14, a 13-9 contest that was decided on a controversial touchdown. The third time happened in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship, where the Ravens lost 23-14.
The Steelers went on to win Super Bowl XLIII, their second NFL title in four years.
While Tomlin may be playing a cat-and-mouse game with his division rivals, his club has not added any key free agents and the Ravens have made several significant signings, even if they lose linebacker Bart Scott, safety Jim Leonhard and center Jason Brown.
Belichick Talks to Bisciotti
Harbaugh's hiring was a topic of discussion with New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
When the Ravens were conducting their coaching search last January, a group of team officials scoured their rolodexes to gain as much background information as they could about each of the candidates.
According to Belichick, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti inquired about Harbaugh's extensive background as a special teams coordinator.
"That's one of the things I mentioned to Steve, because John had such an extensive special teams background [that] sometimes there's a little reluctance about hiring somebody like that as a head coach thinking it would be better to have a guy that's been longer as an offensive or defensive coordinator, but I don't think that's necessarily true, particularly in John's case," Belichick said in an interview on Sirius Radio. "John's just an outstanding football coach."
Pat Kirwan of NFL.com and Sirius Radio said that one of him most enjoyable conversations was with Bisciotti. "Bisciotti recognized that raising his team's ticket prices was tough to do, and he is concerned about the current economic times," Kirwan wrote, noting how Bisciotti cares about the fans and the sport. "But, as he pointed out, he will not raise ticket prices again next year. Bisciotti's research suggests that closer to 20 to 30 percent of his season-ticket holders go to all the games. He believes many Ravens fans receive a chance to see a game live."