The Ravens on Thursday morning added another young body to the competition to replace retired center Matt Birk, trading a conditional 2014 draft pick to the Indianapolis Colts for 26-year-old center A.Q. Shipley.
Shipley will compete with second-year player Gino Gradkowski and 2013 sixth-round draft pick Ryan Jensen.
Coach John Harbaugh said before last month’s NFL draft that Gradkowski had “the pole position right now.”
“He’s got probably the edge,” he said. “But if we bring in somebody to compete with him, if it works out that way, that’d be great.”
Assistant general manager Eric DeCosta praised Gradkowski on Monday during The Baltimore Sun Sports Forum, but also said he would have competition. Days later, the Ravens traded for Shipley.
It shouldn’t be too surprising, though, as the Ravens have brought in a veteran interior lineman in each of the past two offseasons. It was Andre Gurode in 2011 and Bobbie Williams in 2012.
A seventh-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009, Shipley spent time on the practice squads of the Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles before signing with the Colts in 2012. He saw his first NFL action in 2012, playing 14 games and making five starts.
Pro Football Focus gave Shipley, who can also play guard, positive grades in both run and pass blocking and credited him with five quarterback pressures and no sacks allowed on 284 passing plays.
This shouldn’t be perceived as a sign that the team lacks confidence in Gradkowski, who was drafted out of small-school Delaware in the fourth round of last year’s draft. They are likely giving up a late-round pick two years from now just to add Shipley, an NFL journeyman so far, to the mix.
Besides, Gradkowski was already aware that despite being Birk’s lone backup in 2012, he would have to fight for a starting job.
“I know I'll have to earn this spot because nothing is ever just handed to you,” he told my colleague Aaron Wilson earlier this year.