Moore another wise 'bonus' pick by Ravens

There were 26 wide receivers selected ahead of Clarence Moore in the 2004 NFL draft, but only five of them scored more touchdowns than the Baltimore Ravens rookie.

Despite starting in just six games, the former Northern Arizona standout, the 199th prospect to go off the draft board, had 24 catches for 293 yards and four touchdowns in his debut campaign.

If those numbers seem modest, consider this: Moore's four scores were double the combined touchdowns of first-round choices Reggie Williams of Jacksonville, Michael Jenkins of Atlanta and San Francisco's Rashaun Woods. He had more receptions and yards than Woods and Jenkins together. Williams, selected 190 slots ahead of Moore, managed three more catches but had 25 fewer yards and scored just one touchdown.

As the Ravens' staff plots this offseason to upgrade a passing offense that only two years ago ranked statistically as the NFL's worst, and that was next-to-last in '04, Moore figures prominently in the planned upgrade. There is a chance that he will start opposite Derrick Mason, the former Tennessee Titans standout and high-profile free-agent acquisition, in the refurbished lineup. At worst, Moore -- a compelling human amalgam of size (6-foot-6, 212 pounds) and speed and playmaking potential -- likely will be the No. 3 wideout as Baltimore attempts to surround erratic quarterback Kyle Boller with better weaponry.

Not bad, huh, for a relatively anonymous college player snatched by Baltimore with a lowly, sixth-round choice?

"To get a player like that, and at that point in the draft, is really a bonus," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said late in the 2004 season.

Landing the raw but promising Moore in the sixth round was literally a bonus, since Baltimore chose him with one of the three compensatory selections it was awarded in the 2004 draft. Another compensatory pick, seventh-round offensive lineman Brian Rimpf, was also on the active roster. The third, wide receiver Derek Abney, also taken in the seventh round, was on injured reserve.

That's three young players, including one potential starter, the Ravens might not have been able to choose were it not for the compensatory picks.

Even with the relative dearth of news at last week's owners meetings in Hawaii, the annual announcement of compensatory selections commanded little attention. Except, of course, from the teams that most benefited from the 32 middle- and late-round slots added to the draft pool. Certainly, clubs such as Philadelphia and St. Louis, each of which received four extra choices for April 23-24, are aware of the importance of the compensatory picks.

So while the awarding of compensatory choices was greeted with a collective yawn by the media in Maui, which seemed more intent on writing stories about whale watching, the teams involved regarded the bonus picks as a bountiful catch.

"The more [picks], the better," Eagles personnel chief Tom Heckert said. We'll take as many as they want to give us."

Coming from Heckert, whose team now has 12 selections in this year's draft, those aren't just empty words. Two-thirds of the players who dressed for the Eagles two months ago in Super Bowl XXXIX were homegrown. Of the club's 22 starters in the title game, not counting the kicker and punter, 16 were players either originally drafted by the Eagles or signed as undrafted college free agents.

The realities of the salary cap now dictate that most draft choices, even low-round picks, make a team's regular-season roster. Drafting well is a prime mechanism for balancing a cap, since young players are cheaper players, who guarantee fixed and manageable costs over the first four or five years of their careers. One of the several reasons the Eagles are annually among the most cap-healthy teams in the NFL is that they realized long ago the significance of retaining a core group of fixed-cost young veterans.

So one can bet that Philadelphia will make the most of the four compensatory choices -- one each in the fifth and sixth rounds and two in the seventh -- the league awarded the Eagles last week. Philadelphia is one of four franchises awarded more than 20 extra choices since the NFL implemented compensatory selections as a part of the collective bargaining agreement in 1993.

Of the 13 teams that have been awarded the most compensatory choices in the past dozen years, 10 have advanced to at least one Super Bowl appearance since '93.

Notable is that New England quarterback Tom Brady, who has led the Patriots to three Super Bowl titles the last four years, was a compensatory choice, picked in the sixth round of the 1999 draft. Two other starting quarterbacks, Aaron Brooks of New Orleans and Matt Hasselbeck of Seattle, also entered the NFL as compensatory picks. So did Pat Tillman, the Arizona Cardinals' safety who abandoned his football career to enlist as an Army Ranger, and who was killed in Afghanistan last year.

"You look at the history [of compensatory picks], and there are a lot of good players who came into the league that way," Tennessee general manager Floyd Reese said. "That isn't to say those players wouldn't have been drafted anyway. But they might not have landed with the same clubs if those teams hadn't owned the extra picks, and their careers might not have been the same. So from a personnel and team standpoint, yeah, the compensatory picks have made a big difference."

Forced to purge his roster of key veterans this spring -- because of the salary-cap excesses of the past -- Reese will use compensatory picks as another part of the rebuilding process, as the Titans were awarded one bonus choice each in the third and fourth rounds.

Compensatory picks are essentially awarded to teams that suffer a net loss in free agency the previous year. The Eagles, for instance, lost six unrestricted free agents in 2004, and among them were starting veterans such as cornerbacks Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor, tailback Duce Staley and linebacker Carlos Emmons. But Philadelphia signed just two free agents, defensive end Jevon Kearse and linebacker Dhani Jones, and so the net loss of four players earned the Eagles four compensatory selections.

Part of the equation, a formula about as well protected as the ingredients for Coca-Cola, is supposed to take into account the quality of the free agents who switched franchises the previous spring and the size of the contracts they signed. It is that formula, fairly esoteric in nature and apparently comprehended only by a select few personnel people in the NFL Management Council, that determines the level of the compensatory picks. The method has come under fire, both this year and in the past, from teams that feel they might have been shortchanged by where their compensatory choices were slotted.

One of the oddities of the compensatory package this year involves the Denver Broncos and linebacker Ian Gold. The veteran departed the Broncos last spring to sign in Tampa Bay and, thus, was part of a free-agency net loss that garnered Denver two compensatory choices for 2005. But the Bucs released Gold last month, after only one season of a six-year contract, and he quickly re-signed with the Broncos. So, in essence, the Broncos will get an extra choice in '05 for having "rented" Gold to the Bucs last season.

There were 32 compensatory picks doled out last week. That includes six at the end of the third round, which means there will now be 101 "first-day" selections, the most since the NFL reduced the draft to seven rounds in 1994. The Broncos gained two extra picks in the third round, the 97th and 101st choices overall. There are three extra choices in the fourth round, six in the fifth stanza, eight in the sixth round and nine in the seventh.

Behind the Rams and Eagles, with four bonus choices each, Carolina, San Francisco and New England received three compensatory picks apiece.

Baltimore will get only one additional selection, in the sixth round, and that represents its fewest compensatory choices since 2001. Still, don't bet against Newsome unearthing a solid player with that compensatory sixth-rounder, the 213th pick overall. The Ravens' roster for 2004, after all, included six players who entered the NFL as compensatory draft choices, and there were two more on injured reserve.

The compensatory alumni group included standout left guard Edwin Mulitalo and reserve tailback Chester Taylor, who started in four contests when Jamal Lewis was sidelined by injury or suspension, and who ran for 714 yards. That was the second-most rushing yards in the league by a nonstarting tailback.

"You never know where you might find a player," Newsome said. "But the more chances you get, the better your odds, and those compensatory picks represent extra chances."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider.