Ravens Should Wait to Address the O-Line Depth
On July 26th, it appeared the Ravens increased much needed depth on offensive line by signing veteran tackle, Jake Long. Long is a former number one overall pick in the draft out of Michigan. He’s also a four-time Pro Bowler and an All-Pro at his position in 2010. But a pair of knee surgeries cost him a lot of missed playing time over the last couple years. His ability to regain a little bit of that early career talent is a huge question mark as he hasn’t been the same player since.
Three days later it was reported by The Baltimore Sun’s, Jeff Zrebiec that the Ravens, “weren’t overly comfortable with the condition of Long’s twice surgically repaired knee.”
No deal was made between Long and the Ravens, but here we are a week later and the Ravens haven’t tried again to address the depth on the O-line. Will they? Should they? The Ravens felt a need to reach out to Long. Why not someone else? I’ll get to that later, but it seems like waiting is the smart play for now.
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Eugene Monroe was released by the Ravens and has since retired from the league before training camp got started. Kelechi Osemele was not able to be resigned in free agency, leaving for the Oakland Raiders. It left the Ravens with the following realistic options in the trenches to start the season. The favorites to top the depth chart come September.
Tackles – Ronnie Stanley (LT), Rick Wagner (RT, G), Alex Lewis (T, G), James Hurst (T)
Guards – Marshal Yanda (RG, T), John Urschel (LG, C), Vladimir Ducasse (G)
Center – Jeremy Zuttah (C), Ryan Jensen (C, G)
Ideally, you would hope for Ronnie Stanley to live up to the billing of the high draft pick and slide right into the left side vacated by Monroe. Rick Wagner was a stalwart on the right edge, but had a down year in 2015 dealing with a foot injury. Yanda is a staple at right guard, and John Urschel would be the first in line to earn the left guard spot. He’s entering year three but has become known more for his brain than his football play. Not exactly a good thing if you are looking to put the best football players on the field. Zuttah is the center, and when healthy is pretty good.
That is the ideal scenario and a solid line if the players live up to their potential, or play at a level we have already seen them play at times. Rookie Alex Lewis we don’t know enough about yet. I’d expect he’ll get a ton of reps in the preseason games at tackle and guard positions to see when he’s strongest at. Vladimir Ducasse is a veteran, starting 11 games for the Chicago Bears last year. Ducasse will be strong competition against Urschel. Ryan Jensen is a rotational piece, but not a great one. Not nearly as bad as James Hurst has been though. There is a reasonable chance that Jake Long would have been the guy who bumped James Hurst off the 53-man roster bubble. At this point it looks like Hurst is still there, and one injury away from finding a spot on the roster for sure.
It’s a little more unfortunate than we might think concerning that Jake Long didn’t work out, given that a turnstile is more protective of Joe Flacco than James Hurst has been. The reason the Ravens haven’t looked for other options when Long fell though, the options simply aren’t there. Here are some of the more prominent names still on the market.
Will Beatty – Formerly of the New York Giants, Beatty was recovering from surgery on a torn rotator cuff in November. He hasn’t worked out with any teams because he wants to be completely healthy when he does. However, the waiting it out is also being perceived as a lock of desire by the 31-year old. To get back up into football shape, if he wants to, means he probably isn’t an asset until well into the season.
Khalif Barnes – The 34-year old played 118 snaps for the Raiders last year, but was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving back in April. His career is likely over.
Jamon Meredith – A journeyman who had played in 13 games with the Titans last season, making three starts along the way. Drafted in the fifth round of the 2009 draft, Meredith has dressed or six different teams. Most notably was a two-year stint in Tampa Bay where he started 20 games between 2012 and 2013.
Brandon Mosley – Injuries have sidetracked a young career, drafted in the fourth round out of Auburn in 2012. As a rookie, a broken ankle ended his season before it started. In his first, and only start of his career in 2013, he suffered a broken hand which ended that season. He only played 11 snaps in 2014, but the injury bug bit again in 2015 when he was ultimately waived by the Giants. Have to wonder is Mosley would even pass a physical when given one.
Out of that group, Meredith would be best option to unseat Hurst from the bubble. Maybe the Ravens want to see if anyone in house emerges in preseason play. Other teams will be making cuts and the Ravens could make an addition down the road from the pool of other teams castoffs. That seems to be the route the team would likely go if they bring in another offensive lineman. Giving Jake Long a shot tells me that the Ravens want to add to their depth.
It seems odd that they would try out Long, then after more than a week, still not add someone else. But now it’s pretty clear that waiting for more names to enter to pool of available players is the correct route to take.