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Should the Baltimore Ravens trade future draft pick for better players in 2016?

Crazy talk, right? Maybe not...

In 2003, the Ravens traded their second round pick and their first round pick in 2004 for the right to draft Kyle Boller at #19 overall.  The Ravens had already made an excellent selection in 2003 by picking Terrell Suggs at #10 with their natural first round pick, but the decision to reach for Boller cost the organization dearly.  The Ravens not only wasted several seasons of excellent defense with Boller at quarterback, but the future pick given to New England became #21 in 2004.

With the 21st pick in the 2004 draft, the Patriots selected All-Pro nose guard Vince Wilfork, who served as a lynchpin in New England's defense for eleven seasons.  In an interesting footnote, the Patriots then drafted new Ravens tight end Ben Watson at #32 with their original first round pick.  Ozzie Newsome vowed to never trade a future first round pick again after comparing Boller to Wilfork. However, some unique circumstances may cause him to reconsider in the 2016 draft.

The Ravens have the sixth position in the 2016 draft, which is highly unusual for the consistently successful organization.  Since the Ravens drafted franchise quarterback Joe Flacco in 2008, their average draft spot has been #26.  Chronologically, #26, #25, #27, #29, #32, #17 and #26 to be exact.

This abnormally high draft spot could benefit the Ravens in a trade scenario two ways.  First, all of the Ravens draft picks are much more valuable, roughly 40% more than their usual drafting spot in each round.  Secondly, the Ravens earned their high draft spot with a losing season, which may lead some naive general managers to believe the Ravens downtrend will continue in 2016, possibly making their draft picks in 2017 more valuable than usual.

It is pretty clear by the decisions made so far this offseason that the Ravens are in win now mode.  Joe Flacco, Marshal Yanda and Jimmy Smith's contracts have all been extended or restructured, pushing previously guaranteed money of more than $14 million combined into future seasons.  The Ravens then used much of this newly created cap space to sign a trio of players who will be on the wrong side of 30 years old at the start of the season.

Ben Watson, Eric Weddle and Mike Wallace all signed relatively short term contracts with team friendly structures that may not keep them playing in Baltimore for more than a couple seasons.  Owner Steve Biscotti is on record as saying he wants the Ravens to contend for a championship every single season.  But the contract restructures pushing guaranteed money down the road combined with an aging roster of veteran leaders and a free agency trend that has replaced younger players with older players recently could lead to a subtle rebuilding season sometime in the next three or four seasons.

The strengths and weaknesses of the 2016 draft class could also make trading future draft picks appealing to the Ravens.  Defensive line and cornerback are considered the best and deepest positions while the offensive line has some quality prospects at the top but is not especially deep at tackle.  It is considered a down year at quarterback, wide receiver and tight end by some draft experts.  This positional breakdown could entice trading opportunities if an offense needy team decides that the 2017 crop is better than the skill position players available in 2016.

Most everyone agrees that the Ravens have three legitimate draft needs after the early portion of free agency.  A pass rusher-either at defensive end or outside linebacker, a ballhawk - at cornerback or inside linebacker, and depth on the offensive line - ideally a player who can provide insurance behind Eugene Monroe at left tackle and can push the options at left guard.

The Ravens should have no problem finding difference makers to fill two of these needs with their first two picks, #6 and #36.  However, the pickings should be pretty slim in terms of immediate impact rookies by the time the Ravens third round pick, #70, rolls around.

What if the Ravens could trade a future draft pick to have three top 50 selections including the #6 pick earmarked for an elite prospect?  Maybe DE DeForest Buckner, OT Ronnie Stanley and CB Kendall Fuller? Or CB Vernon Hargreaves, OLB Emmanuel Ogbah and OT Jason Spriggs?  Or even OT Laremy Tunsil, OLB Shaq Lawson and CB William Jackson?

So what would these dream scenarios cost?  According to the NFL Draft trade chart, the Ravens might be able to trade for the #18 draft pick in the first round by offering their third round draft pick and first round draft pick next season, discounted for future value.  Or the Ravens could offer their first fourth rounder and second round pick in the 2017 draft in exchange for an extra second round pick in the #45-50 overall range.  Of course, they would need to find a willing trade partner, but they do have a few factors working in their favor this year.

Trading future draft picks goes against Ozzie Newsome's nature.  However, the 2016 roster has more needs than they can honestly fill without some fortuitous luck after the second round.  Every team has a flaw somewhere, but the Ravens currently have three before any inevitable injuries arises.  Aiming for a complete team should be the goal with the current makeup of the roster.

Trading a future draft pick for a better opportunity to reach the Super Bowl in 2016 should be a real consideration.