Kelechi Osemele Will be Expensive For the Ravens to Retain
The question is, will they? Discuss your thoughts on this topic on our message board.
Kelechi Osemele is coming to the end of his rookie contract that he received in 2012. He was drafted 60th overall, a second round pick, out of Iowa State.
Osemele had a stellar rookie year where he became a starting guard, and did his part to help the Ravens win a title. 2013 was a bit of a lost season as he missed nine games with injury. 2014 he was right back in the saddle. Pro Football Focus named him a second team All-Pro on their site, and listed both Marshal Yanda and Osemele as top ten guards in the NFL.
In 2015, he’s started all nine games, and continuing to play at a great level. PFF ranks him as their 14th best guard with a grade of 84.0. (Yanda is number one at 94.9). Aside from a few boneheaded penalties at some inopportune times, Osemele has been solid, reliable, a no doubt rock at his position.
The fourth year starter has shown the versatility to play well in different schemes. That’s a plus because if there is a turnover in coaching, you don’t have to worry about him not being a fit for the next guy. He is surprisingly light on his feet for a 6’5”, 330-pound man. Quick off the snap. Osemele excels in run blocking more than pass blocking, but his pass blocking isn’t bad. I would rather the interior blockers excel in run blocking for getting those tough yards anyway.
NFL.com in their 2012 draft preview, said that Osemele has, “potential as a go to run blocker for the next decade.”
It looks like it. With four years in the league, his upcoming contract could take him close to the decade mark by its end. But will the Ravens be able to fit Osemele into their future plans? Let’s take a look.
Similar players to Osemele
Clint Boling, Cincinnati Bengals – Boling was drafted in 2011 and prior to the current season, earned a five year, $25M contract. $5M guaranteed. Boling is similar to Osemele with PFF grade of 82.8. He too excels in run blocking over pass blocking. Boling hasn’t been thought of as a Pro Bowl caliber player at any point in his career. He’s good, but not top ten guard good.
Given that, and given another year in the books, this would have to be the absolute lowest contract that Osemele would even think about signing. In fact, I don’t think this is relatively close to his price range.
Andy Levitre, Atlanta Falcons – Levitre was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 2009, a second round pick out of Oregon State. Levitre was named to the NFLs All Rookie team, and was a top guard in the game during his time in Buffalo. The Tennessee Titans scooped him up in free agency and gave him a top dollar deal. Six years, $46.8M with $16M guaranteed. It was the second highest contract for a guard (Logan Mankins, 6/$51M). He ended up going for knee surgery shortly after joining the Titans. They traded him to the Falcons after getting two years out of him. He is a good guard, PFF grading him at 81.0 so far this season. That contract was something the Titans wanted to get out of though, and Falcons are making out great by not having to account for the guaranteed money for the next four years. At any time, he can be let go with no salary cap repercussions.
Osemele at year five is closer to Levitre entering year five, as far as a talent goes. Six years and $46.8M would be an amazing deal for Osemele, but I don’t think he gets that much. But he’ll likely get closer to that, than the 5/$25M that Boling got.
Josh Sitton, Green Bay Packers – Sitton is in the same talent group as the Boling, Levitre, and Osemele. He was given a five-year extension before his rookie contract was up. The extension was worth five years for $33.75M, and with $8.9M guaranteed. It was awarded to him some time ago though, in 2011.
Mike Iupati, Arizona Cardinals – Iupati was a first round pick in 2010 out of Idaho, by the San Francisco 49ers. He’s a three-time Pro Bowler, and an All-Pro at his position. Those accolades earned him a five years deal worth $40M and $22M guaranteed from the Cardinals on the open market. But in 2015, before that scary injury on Sunday night, he ranks below Osemele on PFF’s grades, at a pretty average 76.7.
Can Osemele and his agent use this to leverage his contract on the open market?
Say “Look, Osemele played better than the third highest paid guard in the league. Pay him like a top three guard.”
So where does Osemele fit in? Boling was $5M per year, Levitre was $7.8M per, Sitton at $6.75M per, Iupati at $8M per year. I envision a fair deal for Kelechi Osemele in the $7.5M per year range. Call it 5/$37.5M, and $12M guaranteed to him. He doesn’t have multiple Pro Bowls like Iupati to leverage himself up to an $8M per or more deal. Even though Iupati isn’t playing to that level now.
Next question would be, could the Ravens fit that salary cap situation into their plans?
The Ravens currently will be over the cap before the deadline where they need to get under it. But that will change as offseason happenings…um…happen. A lot of variables, but it’s safe to say the cap will be tight yet again.
To be honest though, if they wanted to badly enough, they could make it work. It would just mean sacrifices in other places. Too early to tell where that could be though.
Also have to look at the backup plan if another team grossly over pays for Osemele, which happens seemingly every year with Ravens players (Paul Kruger, Danell Ellerbee, Torrey Smith, etc…). The backup plan would be to stick would be third year player, John Urschel, into the LG position. Urschel only finds playing time right now at center, where he has not looked good in minimal snaps. Guard is his natural position though, and we like his upside and potential.
It certainly is a tricky situation coming up this offseason with Kelechi Osemele. It will be one of the toughest decisions the Ravens have to make. If they pay him the fair price of $7.5M per year, then he and Marshal Yanda would both be in the top five among guards when it comes to average annual salary. A lot of dough to wrap up in one position perhaps. Tough decision for sure.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]