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Ravens continue to shop No. 5 pick

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Posted: Saturday April 15, 2000 12:21 AM

  Jamal Lewis improved his draft-day stock with an impressive 40-yard dash time. Andy Lyons/Allsport

By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Less than 24 hours before the Baltimore Ravens are scheduled to take their No. 5 pick in Saturday's NFL draft -- the first draft slot that carries any real intrigue this year -- all signs continue to point to the team trading down to the No. 12 through No. 18 range.

The most aggressive suitor? Unsurprisingly it's the Bill Parcells-led New York Jets, who own a record four first-round picks, including three selections between Nos. 12-18.

The Ravens have had extensive discussions with Parcells, the Jets de-facto general manager, who has already offered New York's No. 18 and 27 selections in exchange for the No. 5 pick. But the Ravens declined, and are holding out for New York's 12th and 27th picks in exchange for the No. 5, and may consider Nos. 13 and 27 as well.

Sports Illustrated's Don Banks says Baltimore is in an envious position. Already holding the No. 10 pick, the Ravens are shopping the fifth selection. Banks says that the No. 5 spot will shape the draft's landscape -- as well as offer the most intrigue. 

Green Bay, the second most interested team in the No. 5 spot, has also made offers to Baltimore. Philadelphia, the New York Giants and at least two other unidentified teams have contacted the Ravens vice president of player personnel, Ozzie Newsome, about a trade, as well. But only the Jets and Packers have made standing offers.

The Packers have dangled their No. 14 pick, plus a second and fifth rounder. The Ravens are thought to be holding out for what might be called the "Lawrence Welk" deal from Green Bay -- a one and a two and a three.

While trade talks involving the Ravens simmered Friday, they are expected to reach full boil Saturday morning, as the scheduled noon start of the draft in New York City approaches.

"It's like a pressure cooker," said Ravens head coach Brian Billick. "Every minute that passes that pressure builds. [All the interested teams] are waiting and sparring and deciding when to jump in, and when we come in [Saturday] those phones will fly."

No matter when it happens, Baltimore is inclined to pull the trigger on their second Top 10 trade of the week. The Ravens believe they can get the two players they covet by holding onto their No. 10 pick, and dealing for a second first-rounder in the No. 12 to 18 range. The move would allow the Ravens to avoid over-spending on their top choices, plus pick up more selections -- potentially a third No. 1 -- in the process.

The Ravens on Wednesday started their draft-week maneuvers by sending their No. 15 selection and a second-rounder (No. 45) to Denver in exchange for the Broncos' No. 10 pick.

Baltimore's top two draft prospects are Florida reciever Travis Taylor, who it hopes is still around at No. 10, and Tennessee running back Jamal Lewis. The Ravens are also high on Jackson State receiver Sylvester Morris as a possible selection if they trade down into the high teens.

The Ravens are not ruling out the possibility of staying at No. 5 and themselves drafting Florida State Corey Simon. Green Bay would be moving up to attain New Mexico linebacker Brian Urlacher, while New York wants to be in position to draft Michigan State wide receiver Plaxico Burress.

Conventional wisdom says New York has to at least climb ahead of No. 8 Pittsburgh to be assured of getting Burress.

Said one league source: "I think [Packers general manager] Ron Wolf and Bill [Parcells] are parrying with one another [in trade talks with the Ravens]. They're both afraid to put their best foot forward and they're waiting until the 11th hour to do that. They don't want to give the other guy time to adjust his offer. That's why nothing will happen until Saturday morning."

As for the Ravens, the option of drafting Simon is seen as their least likely scenario, even though their negotiations with Seattle free-agent defensive tackle Sam Adams broke down Friday night. Adams said he will fly to Green Bay Saturday morning, where he expects to sign with the Packers.

Adams was seen as a potential replacement for defensive tackle Larry Webster, who faces a likely suspension for failing a league test for substance abuse. The Ravens and Adams were close to an agreement late Friday afternoon, and Adams missed three scheduled flights to Green Bay to continue negotiations, but ultimately the two sides could not agree on terms.

"We are prepared to take the fifth pick," Billick said Friday morning, even while his club furiously shopped the selection. "Even aside from Simon, we can attach certain value to people at No. 5. We have enough people that we value at No. 5 that if we make that pick we're comfortable with it. But that doesn't preclude us from changing out of there because we think there's better value elsewhere or we can get the same value at a later pick that we valued at No. 5."

Translation? The Ravens are serious about trading down. Very serious.

Even after Ravens owner Art Modell again on Friday expressesd a desire to stay put and take a receiver and a running back at No. 5 and 10, if the trade offers from the Jets and Packers don't wind up beating the deals currently on the table. In that scenario, the Ravens would probably take Taylor 5th and Lewis 10th.

But this much became apparent Friday: Because of their multiple No. 1s and their willingness to move up even further, the Jets firmly control how the first round unfolds. No Jets trade is likely until Saturday morning, and perhaps until the first three or four picks are out of the way, because teams are uncertain of how New York's movements will affect the top 10.

It is said that Parcells is itchy to parlay the Jets' four first-rounders into one of the top five spots in the draft, and rumors began swirling Friday that New York has talked to every team from No. 4 Cincinnati through No. 7 Arizona.

"Parcells is playing with Monopoly money," said one league observer. "He's playing with house money. Somebody equated him to a drunken sailor on shore leave."

While the Giants and Eagles have also been in contact with the Ravens, the Giants are the longest of long shots to pull off a deal for No. 5. New York is inclined to sit tight at No. 11 and take one of its top two choices, either Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne or Alabama running back Shaun Alexander.

The Eagles at No. 6 have long been projected as where Simon would end up. Philadelphia is said to be getting nervous about missing out on Simon, and would consider shipping the Ravens an extra pick or two in order to flop places.

The Ravens are well aware that Parcells is talking to numerous teams around them.

"I'm sure if Parcells is shopping, he's just not shopping in one department store," Newsome said. "He's too shrewd a guy....We're just looking for the best deal. If not, we can pick. We're in a very good position at five and 10."

The Ravens' talks with Cincinnati about a possible trade for disgruntled running back Corey Dillon are on hold, but are not dead, a team source said Friday. Baltimore views a Dillon trade as a fall-back plan should it not be able to obtain the player its wants at No. 10.

The framework of a deal for Dillon could be in place by Saturday morning, but not executed unless the Ravens fail to land their top choice at No. 10. Agent Marvin Demoff and the Ravens are confident that the logistics of the trade could be handled even while Baltimore was on the clock early in the first round.

Modell met Friday afternoon with Billick, Newsome and new minority owner Steve Bisciotti to discuss the team's draft plans.

"Art has the final say on all decisions," Billick said. "That's the way we operate."

But in truth, on the surface there appears to be just two scenarios for the Ravens in Saturday's first round: They hit it big, or bigger.

"This is a win, win for us," Billick said. "Sometimes in life you get into a situation where there is no right decision, just varying degrees of wrong decisions. For us right now there really is no wrong decision, just varying degrees of right decisions. Now, check back in four years and we'll see how things look."

With so many different possibilities on draft day, Billick admits he is haunted by all the scenarios.

"This is fun right now," he said. "But it's not so fun when I'm laying there looking at the ceiling at 3 o'clock in the morning. I've woken up at 3 o'clock in the morning every day for the last week and a half.

"I wake up and see this player running down the field. I see this player running this route combination, and this lineman in this spot. I'm plugging guys in as to what can I do with this guy, what can I do with that guy? That's all running through my head."

For another few hours or so. Then those dreams, for better or worse, will come to life.

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