- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 9, 2002

BALTIMORE With holes galore, and more unanswered questions than the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, the Baltimore Ravens remain optimistic heading into this season and the NFL Draft in 11 days.
The 2001 Super Bowl champions have lost or not re-signed 15 starters off last season's AFC wild-card team. Yesterday at Ravens Stadium, the team addressed its situation heading into the draft.
The bottom line? This team is going to be real young. The Ravens hold the 24th overall pick and a total of 10 selections in the seven-round draft. The Ravens know if they are going to be successful this season, they must draft talent that can play immediately.
"This draft is going to have to provide us with a lot of young talent that is going to have to come in and contribute right away and hopefully in a mighty way," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens senior vice president of player personnel. "If you've got as many holes as we have, I think any player that we select in any of the rounds will have a unique opportunity to come in and play."
Just 35 players remain under contract off last season's 53-man roster and only 10 have started a full NFL season. The Ravens axed $26million this offseason to fit under the league's $71.1million cap.
The NFL expansion draft claimed starting outside linebacker Jamie Sharper and kickoff returner Jermaine Lewis to the Houston Texans. Starting quarterback Elvis Grbac and defensive tackle Tony Siragusa retired.
The Ravens lost starting cornerback Duane Starks (Arizona), starting safety Corey Harris (Detroit) and starting wide receiver Qadry Ismail (Indianapolis) to free agency. And the Ravens have 18 free agents the notables include Pro Bowlers Sam Adams, Rod Woodson and Shannon Sharpe that remain unsigned and are free to sign elsewhere.
"Once a player gets a chance to really find out what his market value is, then home does look good, the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence as they think it is," Newsome said. "There is a good chance that we can retain some of the players that are out there. The market has been so slow that a lot of good other players are still out there on the market and we will be entertaining some of those, too."
The Ravens said they will change defensive schemes this season and go with a 3-4 alignment from the 4-3 that was so instrumental in their Super Bowl XXXV win two seasons ago.
Two of the biggest questions are on the offensive side of the ball. Star running back Jamal Lewis, who sat out all of last season with a torn left ACL, is expected to be 100 percent by the start of training camp (July 26).
Bill Tessendorf, the Ravens' trainer, worked out Lewis last week in his native Georgia, and said the 1,364-yard rusher in 2000 passed all tests. Lewis is expected to participate in the Ravens' minicamp April 26-28.
With Grbac's departure, Ravens coach Brian Billick said he is going to give third-year quarterback Chris Redman every chance to be his starter. Billick also said the Ravens probably will re-sign veteran free agent quarterback Randall Cunningham in the coming weeks as an insurance policy if Redman is not ready to start. Billick added that the Ravens probably will draft a quarterback with one of their lower-round picks and sign a rookie free agent quarterback.
"You feel very good about a guy like Chris and what he's done to develop and I think he is going to show up very well, particularly in the preseason," Billick said. "There is always competition, Chris understands that. He understands that he has to produce at a certain level. We're going to make every effort to give him that opportunity to put him in a position to be the starter."
In no particular order, the Ravens need a cornerback, safety, wide receiver, offensive tackle, defensive tackle, running back, linebacker, punter and a kickoff and punt returner. Lots of spots to fill.
When asked if the cash-strapped Ravens have enough money under the salary cap to sign their draftees, Newsome replied, "We can draft."

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