By Jeff Zrebiec
7:30 AM EDT, March 29, 2012
The Ravens have said on several occasions that they plan to give second-year tackle Jah Reid every opportunity to win the left guard job and replace Pro Bowl performer Ben Grubbs. They have a history of giving younger players opportunities, so there is no reason to think that is lip service. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t also bring in a veteran to compete for the job and serve as insurance. That remains very much in the team’s plans, and they have spoken to several agents of guards to discuss potential fits. However, the Ravens don’t have a whole lot of money to spend and there are not a whole lot of quality options at their disposal. Below is a look at 10 guards that they have considered:
Jacob Bell (St. Louis): It would be an extremely tough sell for Ravens fans to see a Pro Bowl left guard replaced by a member of last year’s Rams offensive line, which allowed young quarterback Sam Bradford to be knocked around on a weekly basis. However, Bell, 31, has had some solid seasons during his eight-year NFL career, even though last year clearly wasn’t one of them. His ESPN Insider scouting report says that his quickness and athleticism make him a much better fit in zone blocking schemes, which the Ravens employ. He probably would be a better fit as a veteran backup at this point of his career. Bell reportedly will visit with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Vernon Carey (Miami): After a collegiate career at Miami, Carey didn’t go far and played eight seasons with the Dolphins. The two sides now appear ready to part ways. Carey started 105 of the Dolphins’ 112 regular-season games since the 2005 season. Formerly a right tackle, Carey, 30, was moved to right guard this past season and held up fine, although pass blocking was a struggle at times. Carey, a former first-round pick, played at Miami with Ravens safety Ed Reed, who recommended to the front office last offseason to sign another one of their former Hurricanes teammates: left tackle Bryant McKinnie. It’s not impossible that happens again, though there has been very little buzz about Carey’s status since free agency began.
Anthony Herrera (Minnesota): The Trinidad native went from an undrafted free agent to a regular starter over the past five seasons with the Vikings, but his play has waned as he inches closer to his 32nd birthday. He was graded as the league’s ninth worst right guard by Pro Football Focus after the 2011 season, and the Vikings then made him a salary cap casuality. He met with Chicago Bears officials during the first couple of days of free agency, but he remains unsigned. Even with declining options, the Ravens should be able to do better at left guard than Herrera. But I couldn’t resist including him when his addition could give the Ravens three former Vikings on their starting offensive line.
Kyle Kosier (Dallas): The Ravens have had no contact with Kosier’s agent since the 33-year-old was released by the Dallas Cowboys, so that’s probably a sign that they are not interested, and focused on other options. But Kosier, a veteran of 10 NFL seasons, is one of the more accomplished guards available. He’s been a fixture on Dallas’ offensive line for five of the past six seasons. The Ravens signed another long-time Cowboy in lineman Andre Gurode to serve as insurance last season and Kosier gives them the option of doing that again.
Deuce Lutui (Arizona): The 28-year-old recently visited with the San Francisco 49ers and he has a couple of other trips planned, according to reports. His agent, however, declined to comment when asked if Baltimore was on his itinerary. Lutui started every game for three straight seasons, but he was demoted into a backup role last year after coming into training camp overweight and out of shape, prompting even more questions about his work ethic. Perhaps this comparison is a stretch, but the Ravens did take a chance on a player with similar question marks last year in McKinnie. They badly needed a veteran left tackle then and they badly need a veteran left guard now. I wouldn’t think Lutui is anywhere close to the top of the Ravens’ list, but the later this gets, the less options they obviously have.
Chilo Rachal (San Francisco): He is 6-5, 323 pounds and he’s only 26 years old, but consistency certainly has been an issue. Rachal started 15 games in 2009 and 14 in 2010, but he was replaced on the 49ers’ starting offensive line this past season. The former second-round pick has some upside. He was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the top run-blocking guard in 2010, and he’s currently ranked by Pro Football Talk as the top remaining free agent guard available. However, it’s difficult to imagine Ravens coach John Harbaugh advocating the addition of a player that his brother, Jim, demoted from the starting lineup because of his penchant for committing penalities. Rachal has already visited the Rams.
Jake Scott (Tennessee): To me, Scott makes the most sense. The 30-year-old has proven durable, having started every game for seven straight seasons. He’s also versatile, capable of playing at least three positions on the line. A former member of the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts, he’s protected for both Peyton Manning and Chris Johnson. He’s not overly big at 6-5, 292 pounds but he has above-average quickness and agility for a guard and would fit in well with the Ravens zone schemes. The Ravens have spoken a couple of times with Scott’s agent, Ken Staninger, and there is certainly mutual interest. But Scott has already been on visits to San Francisco and Miami, and he is believed to be looking for more money than the Ravens currently have available.
Eric Steinbach (Cleveland): Steinbach, 31, has played his whole career in the AFC North, spending four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals and five with the Cleveland Browns. He once commanded a seven-year, $49.5 million free agent deal so there’s little question that he has ability. But is he healthy enough to be counted on? Steinbach, who was a cap casualty by the Browns, missed all of last season after undergoing back surgery. His agent, Jack Bechta, told the Cleveland Plan Dealer that he should be fully cleared to perform all football-related tasks by April 15. Until then, the Ravens are probably unlikely to engage in serious negotiations with him.
Bobbie Williams (Cincinnati): The Ravens know all about Williams, having gone up against the former Bengal the past eight seasons. Williams is huge (6-4, 345 pounds) and he’s long been considered a pretty good run blocker. However, there are a lot of question marks with him as well, and there has even been some speculation that he could retire. He’s 36 years old and he played in only nine games last year. He was suspended for four games for violating the league’s policy against performance-enhancing substances, and then he sustained a broken ankle in early December. He’d certainly be a short-term solution.
Floyd Womack (Arizona): Like several guards on this list, the man nicknamed “Pork Chop” is coming off a significant injury as he missed all of last season with the Cardinals because of a shoulder injury. Womack has always struggled to stay healthy, playing in more than 10 games just twice in his 11-year career. Now 33 years old, Womack’s career is clearly winding down. I wouldn’t think Womack would be a starting-caliber guard at this stage, but I guess he’s worth considering as a possible reserve.
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