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Lockout alters draft strategy for Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome

- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 19, 2011

OWINGS MILLS, Md. | Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome is preparing for an NFL draft unlike any he's ever experienced.

Because of the NFL lockout, teams have been prohibited from signing free agents during the offseason. So Newsome and the Ravens will head into the draft April 28 without having the benefit of already addressing pressing needs.

That's quite a bit different from last year, when Newsome worked a trade for standout wide receiver Anquan Boldin before the draft, thereby filling a void that did not have to be addressed in the draft.

"It was good to have Anquan on board before we drafted last year," Newsome said Tuesday. "That takes some pressure off of us trying to get a receiver."

Several of Newsome's draft picks have turned into Pro Bowl stars, including Hall of Fame offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, linebacker Ray Lewis, safety Ed Reed, and more recently, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and running back Ray Rice.

This year, the Ravens have the 26th overall pick. Lewis went 26th in 1996, Reed was 24th in 2002 and tight end Todd Heap was 31st in 2001.

So Newsome isn't worried, even in a draft that is somewhat of a throwback to yesteryear.

"Looking back, I was probably still a player the last time there was no free agency before the draft," said Newsome, who retired in 1990.

Because of the labor situation, general managers haven't been able to sign their own players, work a trade or secure a free agent. Instead, they've shifted all their focus to the draft.

"All 32 teams have just been preparing for the draft, basically. Each and every team will probably be as prepared for this draft as they will ever be," Newsome said.

The Ravens could use a cornerback, a pass rusher or an offensive lineman. But Newsome never has been one to fill out a shopping list.

"Not having free agency, I don't think it has really changed our mindset," he said. "We haven't redirected the board in one way or the other. We'll let it play itself out."

In this draft, teams will probably be less inclined to take a project in the first or second rounds. Now, more than ever, a rookie will be counted on to make a contribution from the outset.

"The main thing is you want guys that can play," coach John Harbaugh said. "You like for guys to play their rookie year, their second year. You only have them for four years before free agency."

it could be something that could be changing."

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