Offseason begins and ends with resolving Flacco contract

February 07, 2013 | Luke Jones

With Reed’s six-year contract expiring and the 34-year-old safety set to become a free safety, Newsome was asked whether he has had any recent discussions with the future Hall of Fame defensive back.

Reed has looked into the possibility of hiring an agent, which would help his cause in securing a new contract in Baltimore or elsewhere. However, Newsome strongly hinted that Reed would hit the open market.

“Unofficially, we’ve had conversations,” Newsome said. “He’s representing himself still; I don’t know if he has an agent. He wanted to let some time clear and at that point, he and I will sit down. I think he realizes there may be some other options out there, but I think if you watched him and watched his body language over the course of the last 8 to 10 days, [you’d see] that he loves being here in Baltimore. I think we can use that to help make that relationship last a little bit longer.”

Bisciotti offered an interesting story related to Reed when asked about his role during the draft and how involved he likes to become in making personnel decisions. The then-minority owner was mystified in 2002 over Newsome’s decision to draft a free safety over a cornerback who was graded similarly.

Needless to say, his lack of interference worked out well as Reed went on to become one of the greatest safeties in the history of the NFL.

“I remember going back to 2002 when the top two guys left on the board were Lito Sheppard and Ed Reed and we had Ed Reed above Lito,” Bisciotti said. “I said to Ozzie, ‘I don’t understand this. If they both have the same grade, why would you not take a corner over a safety? That seems like that’s a more important position.’ And Ozzie said, ‘Because I’m true to my board.’ We took Ed Reed instead of Lito Sheppard, so I kind of learned from that point on that I’d better not engage too much and try to alter their decision-making.”

McKinnie makes statement

Asked about the status of Bryant McKinnie and how his strong play might alter the Ravens’ opinion of him as a viable option to re-sign, Newsome implied the ball could be in the 33-year-old lineman’s court as he prepares to become an unrestricted free agent.

McKinnie was exceptional against some of the league’s top pass rushers in four postseason games after finally being inserted in the starting lineup prior to the wild-card playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts. The move allowed the Ravens to slide Michael Oher to right tackle and rookie Kelechi Osemele to left guard and both thrived at their new spots.

“The way [McKinnie] played down the stretch against [Dwight] Freeney, [Elvis] Dumervil, and then Aldon Smith makes a statement for him,” Newsome said. “I think he has a decision to make as to whether he wants to come back and play here.”

Newsome downplayed the need for the organization to find a long-term solution at the left tackle position, but he also refrained from suggesting that Oher was still viewed as a left tackle, something he typically would bring up in the past when asked about the position. McKinnie might be the most realistic veteran option considering the Ravens’ cap restraints, but they could also look to find a left tackle in the early rounds of April’s draft.

In the meantime, the Ravens are expressing confidence in the group of linemen they already have.

“We like our young guys. I think Juan Castillo is going to be a great addition to our staff,” said Newsome, who estimated the Ravens have eight tor nine lineman with starter potential. “He’s known for helping and developing young players. I feel very good about our offensive line. You said left tackle, but Von Miller plays on the left side and he has to go up against the right [tackle]. Right now, it’s not a right tackle-left tackle thing. You have to have the ability to be able to hold up, whether you play either side.”

In addition to addressing the left tackle spot, the Ravens could be looking at a new center next season as 2012 fourth-round pick Gino Gradkowski would be the logical in-house candidate to replace veteran Matt Birk, who may retire or could be released by the team for cap purposes. Birk carries a $3.45 million cap number for the 2013 season, making his return unlikely.

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