NFL

The Ravens’ problems on the offensive line are overhyped

The Baltimore Ravens should be looking to bolster their offense this offseason. While there are a few needs, one of the top priorities is finding some answers on what was a makeshift offensive line last season. But for all the harping on about the importance of the offensive line, I think Baltimore’s issues are a little overanalyzed and certainly overhyped.

First and foremost, throw out last year. Whenever you lose an All-Pro left tackle to injury and a Hall of Fame-caliber right guard to retirement, there are going to be issues. So, if we aren’t basing our assessment on last season, we need to look a little closer at what Baltimore has in order to figure out what they need. Below is a breakdown of the starting offensive line as it stands right this minute:

When you look at the locked-in starters, Baltimore has three of five spots filled with some really good talent. While Brown could be traded this offseason as he searches for a starting job at left tackle, he and Stanley are Pro Bowl players at their positions and a massive luxury for the Ravens. Very few teams can claim to have even two above-average starters at tackle, much less two Pro Bowl bookends. We can’t forget about Bozeman at left guard, who isn’t at Brown and Stanley’s level but has been solid in his own right, giving up just two sacks last season.

While the center and right guard jobs are still wide open and have been much discussed already this offseason, I don’t think Baltimore needs to panic and rush to a conclusion at both spots.

The Ravens shuffled quite a few players into the lineup at right guard last season, starting with rookie Tyre Phillips. While I believe Phillips can and will improve, he was plain terrible there in 2020 and he’s nowhere near ready to start yet. However, Ben Powers — the guy I predicted would win the job from the outset — performed quite admirably there when given a chance. Powers wasn’t outstanding and no one is going to mistake him for Yanda anytime soon but when combined with the depth Baltimore has at guard, the Ravens should feel good about heading into training camp with the starting job open for competition.

Unfortunately, center isn’t in nearly the same shape, thanks in part to the lack of depth. Currently, Baltimore has just UDFA Trystan Colon-Castillo on the roster at center as Matt Skura is expected to leave in free agency. Patrick Mekari and Bradley Bozeman are guards who can play at center but Bozeman is currently the starter at left guard and Mekari sent his fair share of snaps to the moon last season too.

As we saw last season and even in 2019, center is clearly the Ravens’ biggest problem. In fact, I believe the majority of the issues that have been attributed to the interior offensive line as a whole are really a byproduct of the struggles at center. Beyond the poor snaps, things like missed blocks and slow pulls put far more pressure on both the left and right guards to overcompensate. That leads to missed blocks of their own, getting shoved into the backfield, being late to their blocking assignment, and penalties as they either try to fire off too quickly or need to hold.

Luckily for the Ravens, center is the cheapest position on the offensive line to go buy in free agency. According to Over The Cap, Ryan Kelly — the league’s highest-paid center — ranks 25th among all offensive linemen. In fact, there are just nine centers among the 50 highest-paid offensive linemen in the NFL right now. Baltimore is also fortunate that several solid centers are about to hit free agency with former Green Bay Packers center Corey Linsley leading the group.

If my assessment is correct, signing a top center like Linsley in free agency would immediately patch up the Ravens’ biggest weakness on the offensive line while making both left and right guard look better as well. And as an added bonus, it won’t cost a fortune to do, even if they overpay and don’t backload the deal, which isn’t something the Ravens have done often.

If history is any indication, Baltimore isn’t going to panic and let a single bad year dictate their path in free agency or the NFL draft. In a potentially down market thanks to the projected lowering of the salary cap for the first time in a decade, the Ravens should be able to patch up their offensive line and make a splash elsewhere, as long as they’re smart about it.

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