This offseason currently offers more questions than answers for the Ravens, but the frame work of a good offensive line does exist. Ronnie Stanley finished on his rookie year on an incredibly high note, Marshal Yanda is the same ass-kicker he’s always been and Alex Lewis showed early season promise at left guard.
Let’s take a quick look at the roster as it currently stands.
Exclusive Rights Free Agents
Restricted Free Agents
The first question the team needs to answer is at right tackle with pending free agent Ricky Wagner. I would certainly understand the potential for apprehension from the Ravens here. This year’s free agent offensive line class is paper thin. By many accounts, this year’s draft class is short on impact day 1 offensive lineman as well, which means the handful of proven free agents are going to get paid handsomely.
Wagner will likely cost upwards of $7 million per season to retain and anticipating the desperation there will be around the league you could see that number climb even higher. A bidding war usually leads to a player changing teams in Baltimore but the Ravens should proceed with caution here. Losing Wagner means either replacing him in free agency (good luck with that!), having to spend a very high pick on tackle because it’s a shallow class, or moving Alex Lewis to RT and drafting a guard high.
While Lewis has the length for the position, I have my concerns about his feet and ability to handle quickness off the edge. Also, drafting a lineman early in a draft class so rich at edge rusher and corner – the top, two dire needs – isn’t an ideal scenario.
When Ozzie Newsome stated his desire to get bigger and stronger on the offensive line, it was pretty easy to point straight at the center position. All season Jeremy Zuttah struggled to anchor against bigger interior lineman. If the Ravens are going to be successful on offense, that includes converting on 3rd and short, finishing drives with touchdowns, etc. They have to get better play at center to accomplish that.
The depth of this line could use some defining, and probably an infusion of talent as well. It will be important to define what John Urschel and Ryan Jensen’s roles will be going forward. They both showed flashes of competent play and offer positional versatility but the fact that neither could supplant Vladimir Ducasse at left guard as the season progressed is worrisome.
Swing tackle is a sore spot as it currently stands. James Hurst, I’d imagine, is brought back as a camp body but his spot sorely needs to be upgraded. Stephane Nembot is an intriguing athlete with tremendous size but still very raw. Yanda can play RT in a pinch but there is nobody currently on the roster that can play LT if something happens to Stanley.
Free agent options
Center J.C. Tretter – While not offering more size than Zuttah, he’d be an upgrade if healthy. He’s played virtually every line position and grades very well in run and pass game. With Cory Linsley seemingly to be locked in at center for the Packers the Ravens could offer a starting role and the fact that he’s coming off MCL surgery could keep the price and years down as he re-establishes his value.
Tackle Sebastian Vollmer – Riddled by injury throughout his career, he missed all of last season with a hip injury. This would be more of a flier move but would likely come at a relatively low cost. If healthy, he’s a starting quality tackle – maybe he could slide into that swing tackle role.
Center Pat Elflein, Ohio State – Nasty, compact, strong. While he doesn’t offer plus size, he’s not easily moved. He also has the athleticism to get to the 2nd level as well as react quickly to blitzers. The Ravens would likely have to take him with their 2nd round pick, as he’s an immediate starter and impact player.
Center Kyle Fuller, Baylor – If you’re looking for size at the center position, here it is. Fuller is an impressive looking athlete with the strength and length to anchor at the NFL level and be a plus run blocker. He’ll need some refining, he’s not an elite athlete, and at 6’5’’ it will be a constant challenge for him play with the proper pad level. He’s a guy the Ravens could probably nab in the 4th round.
Tackle Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin – Impressive day 1 starter. Good athlete with impressive lateral movement, consistent fundamentals and effort. Not the biggest guy, and by the looks of his frame it doesn’t look like that will change much; however, he does shows enough power to hold up. He’s an example of the quandary the Ravens will be in if they have to draft a tackle. Ramczyk is at the top of a thin tackle class. The Ravens would have to pull the trigger at 16 to get him, if he’s even still there.
Tackle Julie’n Davenport, Bucknell – A lot of guys lack length in this class, but not Davenport. He’s 6’7’’ with 36-inch arms but has enough athleticism to put it to use. He’s making the jump from lesser competition at a small school and needs some technique work, but the talent is there. He could be a 4th or 5th round target who can compete to eventually start or be the answer to the swing tackle hole the Ravens need to fill.