*It was a busy weekend at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, but Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome had a chance to meet with the media on Saturday to discuss Baltimore's state of affairs in free agency and the upcoming draft. *
Here is what he had to say:
On franchising linebacker Terrell Suggs: "I think, more or less, the way we looked at it from an organizational standpoint is that Suggs is 25, he's been very durable and can rush the passer. When you add all the elements, we felt that he would be the one guy that we would not want to get to the market because the things that I just talked about are very attractive to other teams."
On if Lewis is more important to the Ravens than other teams because of his leadership: "We'd like to think that. What you all do not get the opportunity to see that I do on a daily basis is how he interacts with the young players. He's a great mentor to not only the young linebackers but also some of the offensive players. I think he did a great job of helping out our quarterback [Joe Flacco] and Ray Rice. His value goes beyond his production on the football field from my standpoint."
On evaluating USC linebacker Clay Matthews because Newsome played with his father: "That has happened over the last four or five years, that several of my teammates' sons have been draft-eligible players. One of the tough things that you have to do is tell teammates - someone that you went to war with - 'I don't think your son is good enough to play of us.' That's a very tough thing to tell a father, but you have to be realistic when it comes to that. In the case of Clay, I won't have to make that decision because he's a good player on a team with a lot of good players."
On if the younger Matthews is a similar player to his father: "Athletically, yes. I think Clay, Sr., was a little bit stouter, so from that standpoint, Clay maybe has a little bit more range. But, they are very similar in their styles."
On if there is a concern with Jason Brown asking for too much in free agency: "My philosophy has always been right player, right price. We do a good job of putting a value on what we think that player is worth for us. We always feel like we're willing to pay more for our players than other people will, but over the past few years, we have lost players because they've had the opportunity to help their families by making a lot of money. I always tell the players that we put a value on it, and if there is a chance for them to go out and help their families, then go do it. I'll see them four or five years from now, and we can still be friends."
On if Lewis' contract situation will come down to money: "Economics is always a part of it. I don't know what the other part of it would be. He has a very good realationship with Coach [John] Harbaugh. You know of his relationship with [owner] Steve [Bisciotti], and he and I have a very good relationship. He realizes where our football team is at right now. We have Joe. We can contend in our division and in our conference to try and get him to another Super Bowl, so I think the things are in place. But, economics always play a big part of it."
On if things would be different with Lewis had the Ravens not advanced to the AFC Championship: "No, because I think he still would have had the opportunity to see the value of Flacco and Jared Gaither and some of the other young players that we have on the football team. The other thing I think Ray can appreciate is the front that we have in front of him, which allows him to make plays. There is [Haloti] Ngata, we get Kelly Gregg and Dwan Edwards back. Having those guys in front of him helps him to be the player that he is."
On if he was surprised how Flacco progressed as a rookie: "That credit goes to Hue Jackson and Cam [Cameron], and I think our ability to run the football early allowed Joe to develop. We were probably 60-40 or 65-35 run to pass early, and that allowed Joe to catch up to the league. And then once Joe caught up to the league, Joe allowed our receivers to get better because he's so accurate."
On what he wants to see Flacco do to take the next step: "That question was asked to Cam by Steve in our personnel meeting. According to Cam - and this is something that is a little technical - but he needs to get stronger in his lower body so it will help him be able to avoid some things and help him to slide one way and still deliver the ball. It's a highly technical thing. He improved on so many things over the year. You could see how he played in the first Tennessee game to the second Tennessee game. We just don't know where that ceiling is, but we do know that if we can add some other pieces to him ,he will become a much better player."
On if the types of players he scouted for in Rex Ryan's defense have changed with Greg Mattison as defensive coordinator: "No. We have a philosophy about the players we like on defense. The have to be athletic, they have to be able to run and they have to be able to tackle. That hasn't changed in 13 years, whether it's been Marvin [Lewis], Mike Nolan, Rex or Greg Mattison. That type of player is a good player on defense, and those are the types we have to have, especially playing against No. 7 in Pittsburgh. We have to find some players that can get him on the ground."
On if it's difficult to find elite pass rushers on the first day with other teams coveting pass rusher these days: "Pass rushers are at a premium in this draft, therefore you have to take a look at some other things. But one thing that we've found out in a study that Eric [DeCosta] did with George [Kokinis] is that if you're a good pass rusher in college and had double-digit sacks, you're probably going to have that on our level, too. You may not have the notoriety of some of those other guys, but coming into this league, you look at [Elvis] Dumervil and [Robert] Mathis, when they have sack production, they're going to have sack production in the National Football League."
On how troubling it is when former co-workers of his go to other teams and poach his players:"It's not only in Cleveland, but now it's the Jets. It's been the 49ers and it's been Cincinnati. We feel very aware of that. They have a vast knowledge of our players, but we think, for the most part, the ones that we want to keep, we try to keep. We realize we can't keep them all."
On if there's a risk to drafting underclassmen: "Looking at the board each year, last year, there was a lack of running backs, and then all of the juniors came out. They had success running. The same thing happened again this year. There was a void there, and the junior running backs came out again. Receiver is another one. There was a little bit of a void there, and then all of the juniors came out also. I think when you're dealing with the skill positions, the juniors can come out and become good players in the league because they're dealing with skills they played with since they were in Pee Wee league."
On if he would compare USC's Rey Maualuga to Ray Lewis: "Well, they're both named Ray. Maybe that's the comparison. But, Maualuga is a lot bigger. Ray was only 230 pounds when he came out. Maualuga has been up to 270, I think. In our business, we do a lot of comparisons, from one decade to the next and one level of football to the other. Some of it is fair, and some of it is not fair, from my standpoint."
On if Jonathan Ogden wasn't in his 1996 draft, could Ray Lewis have been in the top 10 of that draft: "No. If you look at the history of drafts, inside linebackers don't go very high. Ray was undersized, so there were some things working against him from being one of the top-tier players. Now, obviously he became one of the greatest players in the history of our game, but there wre some elements that were working against Ray that would have prevented him from being a top-10 player."
On why ILBs don't go high:"It's the same reason why centers don't go high, or offensive guards don't go high. Unless you're a special tight end, you don't go high. We put the premium on quarterbacks, corners, left tackles and pass rushers. For the most part, those are the guys that are going to come off the board early. And, anytime you can get a great defensive lineman, that guy's coming off the board, so you have to also get the good tackles."
On if the economy has impacted the way the Ravens do business: "Yes, I guess you could say from a business standpoint, but from a football standpoint, it has not. Steve allows me to have a budget to be able to go out and acquire players and keep our players. When you start talking about suite sales and all those things, just like it has in 31 other cities, it has impacted us also."
On if he's had to cut his scouting budget, etc.: "No, because we feel like if you win, you can get people in the stands. If we're going to spend money, we're going to spend money on acquiring players. That's Steve's philosophy, because if you're winning, you have a chanceto balance your books, as we did this year getting to the AFC Championship game."
On Leonhard's status: "I know Jimmy will probably be attractive to other teams. The things that Jimmy has to deal with us is that Dawan Landry is coming back, and we've got Nakamura and Zbikowski. So, he has to look at it like if he's coming back, he's competing for a starting job. If he goes to one of these 31 other teams, he has the chance to be a starter, and everybody wants to play. Those are some of the things that we have to deal with, and I understand Jimmy wanting to go somewhere else."
On if he's concerned about Rex Ryan taking him: "Just as concerned of George taking him. That tree is all over now."