When the Baltimore Ravens traded for Indianapolis Colts center A.Q. Shipley on Thursday, the news came as a bit of a surprise.
Just two weeks ago, the Ravens drafted Colorado State-Pueblo offensive lineman Ryan Jensen, who figured to be penciled in as the team’s backup center in 2013, assuming second-year center Gino Gradkowski is ready to assume a starting role.
However, the exact opposite may be the case, as the Ravens gave up a conditional 2014 draft pick for Shipley, meaning this wasn’t just a casual move for another camp body, but rather an acquisition to improve the future 53-man roster.
Shipley has gone through a typical journeyman career so far in the NFL, playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, Colts and now the Ravens in just four years.
In 2012, he finally emerged as a capable 53-man roster staple, being active for 14 games and starting five.
Now in Baltimore, Shipley may be continuing his recent trend of being a starting center in the NFL. If the Baltimore coaching staff felt confident enough about Gradkowski’s capability of developing into a starter this season, they likely would not have acquired Shipley.
But, despite being active for every game during his rookie season, it appears that Gradkowski’s starting job along the Baltimore offensive line is far from safe.
It’s unlikely that Jensen would become the starting center in his rookie year; however, he still figures to make the final roster as a backup at center and both guard positions. At center, right now there seems to be a two-man race between Gradkowski and Shipley that began on Thursday.
Shipley fell victim to a numbers game at center in Indianapolis. Don’t be fooled though – he is still a starting-caliber player in the NFL.
According to Pro Football Focus, in 476 snaps with Indianapolis in 2012, he earned an overall grade of +6.9, which is quite impressive. With his experience as a starter and Gradkowski’s lack of any NFL starting experience, the starting center battle will be an interesting storyline to follow during training camp.
Once considered Gradkowski’s job outright, the Ravens have now added two more capable players in Shipley and Jensen to compete for the center position.
If Shipley builds off a strong 2012 finish, Gradkowski may be watching the offense primarily from the sidelines again in 2013.