With Left Tackle Eugene Monroe set to earn a big payday this off-season, it is very unlikely (even though team officials won’t admit it right now) that the Ravens will be able to re-sign Michael Oher. This leaves a hole on the offensive line to Marshall Yanda’s right. However, the Ravens could go in-house to fill the gap with third-year OL Kelechi Osemele, the 6-5, 330 pound native of Houston, Texas.
Osemele started all 16 regular season games and was very effective at right tackle during his rookie year in 2012 before starting all four games of the Ravens’ championship run at left guard after Bryant McKinnie was put in at LT. The switch moved Oher back to the right side and Osemele replaced the injured Jah Reid next to McKinnie.
The 24-year-old (25 in June) entered the 2013 season as the starting LG, but a back injury limited him for the first half of the season. He eventually underwent back surgery in November, ending the 2012 second-round draft pick’s season after seven games (all of which were starts at LG).
If Oher does walk this offseason, moving Osemele back to right tackle might be the Ravens’ best option to not only fill the gap Oher leaves, but to upgrade over Oher as well on the right side. After starting at left tackle in 44 straight games at Iowa State, Osemele made the transition to RT look extremely easy in 2012, when he had an outstanding rookie season and was a key component on the O-line during the entirety of the championship season. With his skill set, Osemele is a perfect fit at RT for 2014 & beyond, and the Ravens love his upside on the right side, so this is a move that could make sense for both sides.
If this scenario plays out, the next question would be, who steps in a Left Guard? Let’s take a look at a couple of the options the Ravens might consider during the offseason:
The Ravens definitely need to upgrade the O-Line this offseason, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them draft a couple of lineman early in the 2014 NFL Draft. If they do take a guard in rounds 2 or 3, Mississippi State’s Gabe Jackson, Baylor’s Cyril Richardson and UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo are potential targets.
Projected to go anywhere from the late first to the early third round, Su’a-Filo is definitely a prospect to watch leading up to the draft. The 23-year-old measured in at 6-4 and 308 pounds at the combine and has tremendous athleticism, lateral agility and quickness on the O-Line, and more importantly, he can fit into both zone and man blocking schemes.
The Pleasant Grove, Utah native instantly made a name for himself at UCLA as a Freshman in 2009, starting all 13 games at LT while earning a (then Pac-10) conference honorable mention. Su’a-Filo then sat out for the 2010 and 2011 seasons while serving a Mormon mission in the Southern US.
Su’a-Filo made a huge impact for the Bruins after he returned in 2012, starting all 14 games at LG while earning First Team All-Pac 12 and Third Team All-American honors. The UCLA star then followed his impressive 2012 season with an outstanding 2013 campaign, earning First Team All-Pac 12 honors for the second straight year and a Second Team All-American selection, while also winning the 2013 Morris Trophy Award (Best OL in the Pac-12).
The Ravens could also look to upgrade the interior O-Line through free agency. With several notable offensive guards set to hit free agency, here’s a look at a couple that could draw interest from the Ravens:
- Kansas City OG Jon Asamoah: At 6-4 and 305 pounds, the underrated Asamoah has a very solid size/athleticism combo and is solid in both run blocking and pass protection. The 25-year-old (26 in July) fifth-year pro out of Illinois also has a good amount of experience, playing in 59 games and recording 41 starts at right guard for the Chiefs from 2010-2013.
- NY Giants OL Kevin Boothe: Turning 31 in July, the 6-5, 300-pound Boothe is a versatile, experienced veteran that can play all three interior O-Line positions. Boothe played for the New York Giants from 2007-2013 and hits the free agent market with 105 games and 62 starts to his resume.
- Carolina OG Travelle Wharton: Turning 33 in May, Wharton looks to have at least another solid year or two left in the tank, and would be an excellent veteran addition to the Ravens O-Line for at least 2014. After being selected in the third round out of South Carolina in the 2004 NFL Draft, Wharton proceeded to start at LG and LT for the Panthers from 2004 to 2011 and then returned to Carolina in 2013 after tearing his ACL in the 2012 preseason as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals. The 6-4, 312-pound Wharton had a great comeback season in 2013 and he is still solid in run blocking and pass protection. With 111 career starts, Wharton could be just what the Ravens O-Line needs to shake off a disappointing 2013 season and get back to running the ball with authority and keeping Joe Flacco clean in 2014.
Of course, it remains to be seen what exactly the Ravens have in mind for the future of K.O. Their actions over the next several months should make it clear, however, where they see him best contributing in the future.
What do you think? Should the Ravens move Osemele back to tackle and try to pick up a guard in the draft or free agency? Or keep him at guard and look to get a tackle instead?