Replacing a Legend

Street Talk Replacing a Legend

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There was hope that Marshal Yanda would return to the Ravens for one more year.

He’s the anchor of the offensive line and there was anticipation he would come back to be part of a potential Super Bowl run this upcoming season.

Fans were also eagerly awaiting for him to extract revenge on Titans defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons for allegedly spitting in his face during the Ravens 28-12 loss in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.

Alas, it was not to be.

Yanda decided to walk away from the game after 13 seasons.

[Related: A Tribute to Marshal Yanda]

While his departure leaves a hole in the Ravens’ offensive line and Yanda will be difficult to replace, there are some solutions. Yanda was also gracious enough to make his decision well before the start of the regular season, which gives the Ravens time to adjust.

And don’t think for one second this decision caught general manager Eric DeCosta off-guard. He certainly knew the scenario could unfold this way and had a plan is in place.

Ideally, Ben Powers, who was selected in the fourth round (123rd overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft, will be ready to take the next step in his development. Powers played sparingly last season, but he has a promising upside. Powers was an All-American and Outland Trophy Semifinalist at Oklahoma. He has good size at 6-foot-4, 310 pounds, but still needs to work on his technique and footwork.

Powers received his first extensive action in the regular-season finale against Pittsburgh. He had the highest grade among all of the Ravens players in that game by Pro Football Focus.

Yanda was impressed with Powers’ performance.

“Ben, that was his first time playing in a live-bullets ball game,” Yanda said. “As a young player, the quicker that you can get that real game experience, the better, so you know what it takes and you understand the speed of the game, the physicality of the game. And just the whole team in general, they went out there and played their tails off and did a great job. It was awesome to watch, for sure.”

Yanda’s decision to retire adds another $7 million to their salary cap to perhaps pursue a free-agent lineman, such as Joe Thuney, Anthony Castonzo and Brandon Scherff. However, those types of players will be in high demand, which could prompt a bidding war.

The Ravens could also look to the 2020 NFL Draft. Perhaps DeCosta would be tempted to use the first-round pick on an offensive linemen that is rated highly on his draft board. The team will be determined to protect its greatest asset — quarterback and reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson.

[Related: See All Our Interior OL Prospect Profiles Here]

Yanda, a third-round pick in 2007, has played in 177 games (166 starts), tying Jonathan Ogden‘s record of most games played among offensive linemen in Ravens history. Yanda’s accolades include Associated Press first-team All-Pro (2014-15), Associated Press second-team All-Pro (2011-12, 2018-19), Pro Football Writers of America All-NFL (2012, 2014-15) and PFWA All-AFC (2018).

While coach John Harbaugh certainly wanted Yanda to play through the final year of his contract, he completely understood his decision to retire while he was still playing at a high level, which will cement his legacy.

“When you’re a Hall of Fame-type of guy and you’re a lineman, it’s really important to finish strong in your career, to play Hall of Fame football at the end, because that’s when everybody is watching,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “I just couldn’t say enough good things, great things, about Marshal Yanda and his family.”

The Ravens might never find another offensive lineman with the toughness and prowess of Yanda.

And that’s what makes the end of this chapter of the franchise so bittersweet.

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About Todd Karpovich

Todd Karpovich has been a contributor for ESPN, the Associated Press, SportsXchange, the Baltimore Sun, among other media outlets nationwide. He is the co-author of “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Baltimore Ravens Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box,” “Skipper Supreme: Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles,” and the author of “Manchester United (Europe's Best Soccer Clubs).” Karpovich lives in Towson with his wife, Jill, daughters, Wyeth and Marta, and a pair of dogs, Sarah and Rory. More from Todd Karpovich

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