The Ravens' trade for center Jeremy Zuttah from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is expected to provide an immediate upgrade for the offensive line.

Zuttah is an athletic 6-foot-4, 308-pounder regarded by NFL analysts as well-suited for offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak's zone-blocking schemes due to his size and mobility.

Acquired in exchange for a 2015 fifth-round draft pick, Zuttah replaces Gino Gradkowski as the Ravens' new starting center.

"I like the deal for the Ravens. Jeremy's a perfect fit for them," said former Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins director of pro personnel Louis Riddick, an ESPN analyst. "Based on what Gary Kubiak wants to do with a lot of bootlegs, waggles, designed roll-outs and an outside zone running game, that all plays right to Jeremy's strengths. He's very athletic. He can execute cut-off blocks, get to the second level, pull and finish with aggressiveness.

"He can really move well laterally in pass protection. He can do all the things that won't allow him to get exposed one-on-one as he did at times in the Tampa scheme. If you look at him as a center and guard, he's much better at center. At guard, that's where he got overextended, got up on his toes and didn't have consistent hand usage. He's a natural center."

Zuttah, 27, is a former third-round draft pick from Rutgers who has started 76 of 90 games in six NFL seasons. He has started 30 games at center, 41 games at left guard and five games at right guard, 

Now, Zuttah will line up next to Ravens Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda.

"Jeremy's going to give Baltimore a more physical and athletic player with more range than Gino Gradkowski and A.Q. Shipley," Riddick said. "They're not even in the same ballpark athletically as this kid. The trade had to be an easy decision. All things are pointing in a positive direction. I've watched and studied him his whole career. He's a good fit for them. There's not a lot you can find wrong about this transaction. This will help them get better."

The Ravens have attempted to find a solid replacement for six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk ever since he decided to retire following Super Bowl XLVII.

Gradkowski finished last season as the worst-ranked starting center in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus, despite showing gradual improvement throughout the year. Zuttah didn't allow a sack and was ranked 22nd overall.

"Zuttah is a baller, that's what it boils down to," said former Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman Jamie Dukes, an NFL Network analyst. "He can flat-out play. It's funny, I kept saying the guy the Ravens would miss more than anybody was Matt Birk. When the old man left, Birk was the guy who had made all the calls.

"Without Birk, it made Joe Flacco work even harder before the snap. It's a subtlety, but it's a transition. Now, they've recognized that, and they've got a guy who's a pretty good football player. He's definitely quick enough and strong enough. This takes pressure off of Joe."

awilson@baltsun.com

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