RAVENS NOTEBOOK: Signing Yanda is a priority

Street Talk RAVENS NOTEBOOK: Signing Yanda is a priority

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INDIANAPOLIS — One of the Baltimore Ravens’ major offseason goals is something they’ve already communicated privately to offensive tackle Marshal Yanda.

They intend to sign him to a long-term contract after having the gritty former Iowa farm boy play last season under a $1.684 million restricted tender. Yanda is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, but the Ravens want to ensure that one of their toughest blockers remains on the roster.

A former third-round draft pick, Yanda started at right tackle last season and played right guard the previous year.

"We’ve got one real major issue," Harbaugh said. "That’s going to be a priority for us. I think he’s a good player obviously, a very good player. He’s one of my favorite guys. He knows that. As a coach, you want those guys back. Other than that, we should be in pretty good shape. I think the foundation is your offensive line on offense, no doubt, your quarterback and your offensive line is where it starts."

Meanwhile, the Ravens anticipate two-time Pro Bowl fullback Le’Ron McClain to test the free agent market.

They aren’t ruling out potentially re-signing McClain, who has lobbied unsuccessfully to be more involved on offense two seasons after rushing for a career-high 902 yards and 10 touchdowns.

However, McClain only rushed for 85 yards on 28 carries with no scores last season.

"LeRon McClain is a ball carrier, too, he’s not just a fullback," Harbaugh said. "The market is going to declare that a little bit. I would love to have Le’Ron signed right now, too. I think he’s going to be interested to see what the market is going to bear for him. There’s so much uncertainty right now. It’s just hard to predict."

The Ravens recently signed veteran fullback Jason McKie.

"I’m wondering where I’m going to land," McClain recently told Ravens24x7.com. "I really want to know what guys I’m going to be playing with. I hope it’s with the Ravens. I understand it’s a business. They’re going to look out for the team. I’ve got to look out for what’s best for Le’Ron McClain."

Harbaugh was noncommittal on whether running back Willis McGahee will be released.

McGahee is due a $6 million base salary next season. Unless he comes back at a much lower price, he won’t be back.

"I don’t think we know anything along those lines because we don’t have to yet," Harbaugh said. "The way it’s all set up there’s no reason to make any decision before you have to. What the salary cap is going to be, how those numbers factor in, are important. But Willis McGahee can play. He’s a good person, a hard worker, a leader on our team. I’m a big fan of Willis McGahee.

KINDLE’S STATUS UNRESOLVED: Sergio Kindle recently expressed optimism that he’ll be cleared for contact drills, but the Ravens aren’t so sure about his outlook.

The second-round linebacker missed his entire rookie season with a fractured skull suffered last July when he fell down two flights of stairs in the middle of the night.

Kindle is due to visit neurological specialist in Boston and Michigan soon.

"Sergio, from what I understand, is working really hard down there in Texas," Harbaugh said. "He worked hard during the season. I’m an optimistic guy. I’ve got my fingers crossed. I’m very, very hopeful. But there’s no way to know. 

"It has to do with the brain and how it heals and all that kind of stuff. He’ll be in the doctors’ hands. I’m for Sergio’s long term health, that comes first. If that gets resolved then I’m for Sergio rushing the passer and playing for the Ravens, but the long-term health thing is the most important."

The former University of Texas star is training in the Dallas area at the Michael Johnson performance facility.

"I feel great," Kindle told 24×7 recently. "I feel like I’ll get that clearance. How I feel about things could be different than what the doctors say. It’s up to the doctors. Based on how things are going, I feel like I’ll have good results."

How will Kindle know if he can withstand the rigors of football?

"The main thing is the actual contact," Kindle said. "There’s no way to really evaluate that until you do it. They’re going to be looking at the healing of my head and whatnot and my body. It looks like I’ll be able to take a hit. My balance is improved by far.

"One thing I’ve done is put a helmet on and banged my head against a wall. I’m careful about how hard I do it. I haven’t had any problems. I think I’m ready to hit. I can’t wait to play football again."

SLOWEST RECEIVERS IN THE LEAGUE?:  Former NFL general manager Mike Lombardi made a strong declaration about the Ravens and the Cleveland Browns’ respective wide receiver corps, labeling them as being the slowest outside receivers in the league.

Both AFC North franchise could use an influx of speed outside.

"I think Baltimore desperately needs an outside of the numbers wide receiver, they might be one of the slowest teams in the league outside," said Lombardi, an NFL Network draft analyst. "They got to find somebody who can vertically threaten the field. I think you have to evaluate receivers based on where they can play on the field. Are they outside the numbers receivers?

"We saw in the New England game they couldn’t win outside against the Jets and tried to throw the ball inside and it didn’t work. So, you have to evaluate receivers on if they’re inside or outside. Baltimore has too many inside receivers. The guys that they have to get need to stretch the field and win one-on-one. That’s hard to find in college football. Who plays press coverage in college? Can they beat the press? Everybody can get open against air."

EYEING THE OFFENSIVE LINE: The Ravens conducted several interviews with offensive linemen, including meetings with Baylor offensive tackle-guard Danny Watkins, Penn State center Stefen Wisniewski, Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi, Mississippi State offensive tackle Derek Sherrod, Connecticut guard Zach Hurd, Lehigh offensive lineman Will Rackley.

Boston College offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo met with the Ravens at the Senior Bowl.

Carimi doesn’t lack for confidence.

"I’m completely confident in my game,” Carimi said. "I really don’t have any problems. I’ know I’m the best tackle out there and I just have to play like it and act like it. I’m physically stronger and have more career starts and better knowledge of the game. That’s why I’m the No. 1 tackle out there."

Castonzo, who’s ranked ahead of Carimi, said he wasn’t bothered by the bragging.

"That’s his opinion," Castonzo said. "I’ve gotten to know him. He’s a nice guy."

Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder (6-foot-8, 319 pounds) said he didn’t have a meeting scheduled with Baltimore.

RESTRICTED TENDERS: The Ravens have sent out restricted tenders, including the low tender for linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and original round tender for former third-round linebacker Tavares Gooden.

The tenders aren’t binding if a new collective bargaining agreement isn’t hammered out.

HAVING FUN: Harbaugh referenced New York Jets coach Rex Ryan as growing out of his coaching tree.

When he brought him up, Harbaugh took a good-natured shot at the beefy former Ravens defensive coordinator.

"That’s a big branch," Harbaugh said. "That’s a sturdy branch. Sorry, Rex." 

GAITHER UPDATE: Offensive tackle Jared Gaither missed all of last season with a thoracic disc injury in his back, and he recently told 24×7 that he’s 100 percent healthy and didn’t have to undergo surgery.

He also said he prefers to play in Baltimore next season.

"No recent update, I’ve heard his comments that he’s 100 percent," Harbaugh said. "I know that he says he’s training and lifting. He’s not at our facility but that’s OK. We look forward to seeing how he progresses. I want to see him get the weight, back on, the strength, and see how that goes.

QUICK HIT: Harbaugh praised oft-criticized offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

"I think Cam Cameron is a great teacher and he’s a very creative-minded guy," Harbaugh said. "He’s also a guy who understands the fundamentals of the game and isn’t caught up into the ego-related things like yards and points. We want yards and points, but he wants to win football games. He comes from that tough, Midwestern philosophy. That’s what I like about him."


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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors.  More from Aaron Wilson


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