BEREA - The Baltimore Ravens have been searching for a top-flight quarterback for several seasons. Ironically, they might have had one on their roster two years ago - and let him go.
Derek Anderson was drafted by Baltimore in 2005, but was released just two weeks into the regular season. The Browns claimed him off waivers and the rest is history.
"We coveted Derek and really thought he had a future, but we got into a roster situation,`` said Ravens coach Brian Billick, whose team hosts Cleveland on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. "We thought he was a great prospect going forward and we thought we could develop him. Cleveland did a great job of picking him up.``
Due to a numbers crunch on special teams, Baltimore attempted to shift Anderson from its active roster to its practice squad on Sept. 20, 2005. NFL rules, however, force teams to put players through waivers before assigning them to practice units. That allowed Browns general manager Phil Savage to claim Anderson, much to the Ravens` chagrin.
"Phil and (Oregon State coach) Mike Riley have a great relationship, that`s probably what prompted him taking a stab with Derek after we let him go,`` Billick said. "He`s playing the way we thought he would. "You go through (changes), he gets his opportunity, and he steps up and plays brilliantly.``
While the Ravens have gotten little production out of Steve McNair and Kyle Boller all season, Anderson ranks among the NFL leaders in numerous categories. Anderson is fourth in the league in passing touchdowns (20), eighth in yards per attempt (7.64) and 11th in passer rating (90.7).
Current Baltimore starter Boller is 23rd in yards per attempt (5.76) and 24th in passer rating (74.6). McNair, who is sidelined with a partially dislocated shoulder, sits 25th in passer rating (73.9) and ranks dead last in the NFL in touchdowns per attempt (1 per 102.5).
If those numbers weren`t bad enough for Baltimore, there is one even scarier stat: The Ravens team has five passing TDs, while Anderson threw for five scores on Sept. 16 against Cincinnati.
"I`ve always thought Derek was a poised quarterback, even when he was here,`` Baltimore linebacker Bart Scott said. "He was mature beyond his years and he`s a pocket quarterback that makes quick decisions.``
Though Scott was quick to offer his training camp memories of Anderson, "D.A.`` is doing his best to make his release by the Ravens a non-story, even in a conference call with the Maryland media.
The 6-foot-6, 230-pounder insisted "there are no hard feelings`` and "it`s just another week.`` But he did admit thinking about what might have been had he stayed in Baltimore.
"Possibly, it would have been a little while until I got a chance to play, but who knows what would have happened?`` Anderson said. "It`s a business and that`s all it is. I`m just going to prepare and go play. I`m not going to worry about that stuff.``
The Ravens, meanwhile, will continue to worry about anything and everything at Anderson`s position. Boller is headed for unrestricted free agency, while the 34-year-old McNair is not expected to be retained in 2008. It`s a mess that Billick will have to deal with sooner, rather than later. For now, though, the quotable coach is happy to watch his former players` development.
"Having been around him, Derek is such a joy to be around. He`s very coachable and very much wants to be good,`` Billick said. "You get to this point of your maturation and all of a sudden things fall together and you`re playing well. He`s doing that now.``
Contact Brian Dulik at 329-7137 or email@example.com.