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Ravens execute well-crafted plan to land Flacco

4/26/2008 - NFL Baltimore Ravens

The list of names is scary.

Vinny Testaverde … Tony Banks … Anthony Wright … Jeff Blake … Elvis Grbac … Kyle Boller.

Instead of continuing the annual quarterback carousel in Baltimore, the Ravens flocked to Joe Flacco.

The Ravens have their new franchise quarterback in the strong-armed Delaware product, but Flacco didn't come easy.

It took a rash of clever wheeling and dealing by general manager Ozzie Newsome that included two trades, three teams and a total of nine picks being swapped. In the end, the Ravens landed their quarterback with the No. 18 overall pick.

"It lets me know that they wanted me,'' Flacco said during Baltimore's conference call. "I don't know what's more important than that. It's pretty darn important to me that it just lets me know how much a team actually wanted me and will be glad to have me down there, and I can't wait to get down there and work hard and prove to them that they made the right decision that they moved up to get me."

Flacco is just the second quarterback taken in the first round in the Ravens' 13-year history, joining Boller.

Ironically, the team's two first-round quarterbacks will be in a heated quarterback competition in training camp. Boller, 26, has been with the Ravens for five seasons and is in the final year of his contract.

The Ravens are not expected to re-sign Boller, so it's inevitable, either this year or next year, that Baltimore will be Flacco's team.

The Ravens' plan coming in was no secret: get a quarterback with their first pick. The team recently lost 13-year veteran Steve McNair to retirement and had two unproven players behind him in Boller and Troy Smith.

Baltimore had been scouting quarterbacks even before McNair called it quits. McNair was expected to be the starter if he could prove to be healthy enough in training camp, yet his departure sped up the process of finding a signal-caller who can potentially step in this season.

Most thought that quarterback of the future would be Boston College's Matt Ryan. But when the Atlanta Falcons nabbed Ryan with the third pick, the Ravens were more than prepared.

Baltimore took a lot of chips to the poker table this weekend. The team had nine picks -- including four compensatory picks -- and used them to the maximum value. There was speculation the Ravens attempted to move into the top five to get Ryan, but that never came to fruition.

Instead Baltimore moved back in the first round and found a willing suitor in the Jacksonville Jaguars, who came off desperate in wanting Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey.

Jacksonville contacted at least two teams -- Baltimore and the Cincinnati Bengals -- about moving up. The Bengals refused to move out of the No. 9 spot because they wanted USC linebacker Keith Rivers, which helped the Ravens.
Baltimore swapped the No. 8 pick for Jacksonville's No. 26 pick, two third-rounders (No. 71 and No. 89) and a fourth-rounder (No. 125).

Whether the Jaguars overreacted by giving up three additional picks to take an unproven player is surely to be a topic of discussion in Jacksonville. But that's not Baltimore's problem.

By the end of the day, the Ravens gained a potential starting quarterback and an extra third- and fourth-rounder.

"With [Matt Ryan] going to Atlanta, it basically put some things in motion that we had been working on in the last eight or nine days,'' Newsome said.

The Ravens could have tested the waters to see if Flacco, Louisville's Brian Brohm or Michigan's Chad Henne fell to them at No. 26. But they were proactive in getting the highest-rated quarterback of the three on their draft board and traded up eight spots with the Houston Texans. It cost Baltimore its No. 26 pick, a third-rounder (No. 89) and a sixth-rounder (No. 173).

Flacco has good measurables. He's 6-foot-6, 230 pounds and is very similar physically to another AFC North quarterback in Derek Anderson of the Cleveland Browns. Baltimore drafted Anderson in the sixth round in 2005, but lost him that year on a waiver claim.

The Ravens also saved a ton of money.

Last year, Falcons No. 8 pick Jamaal Anderson reportedly garnered a $31 million contract. If Ryan had been available and the Ravens grabbed him at No. 8, he would have gotten a slightly larger contract this year. In contrast, Bengals cornerback Leon Hall signed for $13.1 million as the No. 18 pick in 2007, a difference of approximately $18 million.

It's hard to pick a bone with what the Ravens did today. They didn't overreact to try to get Ryan, and didn't panic when he was taken off the board.

Instead, they were smart, swift and organized.

Much of the team's success could rest on the shoulders of Flacco next season. The Ravens are a veteran-laden team, but based on the production of previous signal-callers, Flacco has as good a chance as any rookie to win a starting quarterback job in 2008.

"They're a team that's looking for a quarterback,'' Flacco acknowledged. "They're competing their quarterbacks, and they want a guy to stand out and come in and do the job for them. … But it's just a great opportunity for me to go in and play football and compete and prove to people that I'm a good quarterback, so I couldn't be more excited about the opportunity."

James Walker covers the NFL for ESPN.com