When you’ve just won the Super Bowl, it’s easy to rest on your laurels safe in the knowledge that you’re the best team in football. They don’t say that the letters NFL stand for Not For Long for no reason however, and the Ravens are a team with plenty of needs as we head into the offseason. There’s no point discussing quarterback as one; whatever your opinion of Joe Flacco is, he turned it on in the playoffs and won a Super Bowl – he’s going nowhere.
But what about the rest of the roster?
Here’s a brief look at one of the team’s needs – the offensive line – and where help could come from.
The one guarantee you can make with the Ravens offensive line as we head into 2013 is that right guard Marshal Yanda will return at the position where he has been amongst the league’s elite for the past three seasons.
Beyond that, who really knows?
Does Michael Oher stay back at right tackle now and leave Kelechi Osemele at left guard, where he played so well in the Super Bowl?
Does the team bring back Bryant McKinnie at left tackle?
With Matt Birk retiring, will Gino Gradkowski step into his place?
All of these questions remain unanswered and with that comes plenty of options to upgrade the current line.
Let’s assume that Michael Oher stays at right tackle. From left guard to right tackle that would give you a line-up of Osemele-Grakowski-Yanda-Oher, leaving the gap at left tackle. If McKinnie isn’t brought back, two options to look at could be New Orleans’ Jermon Bushrod and Philadelphia’s King Dunlap.
Bushrod has been up and down for much of his career and, while he has looked much better in the past two seasons, he has been prone to two to three games per season where he just falls apart as a pass blocker – not ideal when you’re about to pay your quarterback a contract in the region of $100 million.
Dunlap flashed potential in his first few years in the league before looking solid as a starter in 11 games at left tackle in 2012. He too has been prone to his struggles in pass protection though.
All this said, provided they can keep him motivated, Bryant McKinnie would probably provide the best value for money available to the Ravens.
Should the Ravens decide that they want to move Oher back to left tackle and move on from McKinnie, or if they believe they are likely to tinker with the line-up at some point again, a perfect signing would be Minnesota’s Geoff Schwartz. After signing with the Vikings on a one-year deal to try and prove his ability, Schwartz was somehow kept on the bench despite outperforming right guard Brandon Fusco whenever he saw the field.
What makes Schwartz so intriguing, and valuable as a free agent, is his ability to play both guard and tackle. In 2010 in Carolina he started, and played well, at both positions and, had he not missed all of 2011 through injury might not still be available to pick up. Schwartz is the kind of player who is going to make the team who takes a chance on him very happy; his versatility and overall level of play make him a perfect fit on any roster in the league.