By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun
10:35 AM EDT, May 8, 2013
The common conclusion from the Ravens’ decision to re-sign Bryant McKinnie was that the organization wasn’t yet comfortable with the idea of Kelechi Osemele starting at left tackle. I’m sure there is plenty of truth to that even though team officials suggest that’s not the case. However, the reason why the McKinnie move was a no-brainer – at least in my mind – was that the Ravens couldn’t risk potentially weakening two positions along the offensive line. Osemele may very well develop into a quality left tackle in the NFL. However, who replaces Osemele at left guard? Osemele was dominant at times when he moved from right tackle to left guard for the playoff run. Could Jah Reid play at that high of a level? How about Ramon Harewood or fifth-round draft pick Rick Wagner? The Ravens’ offense made too many strides last year to start the coming season with a completely new pairing on the left side of the offensive
With that being said, I don’t expect Ravens coach John Harbaugh to just hand McKinnie the starting left-tackle job. McKinnie, who is in town and should take his physical and officially sign his new deal any day now, will probably get the majority of the first-team repetitions in training camp. However, the Ravens understand that they need to keep McKinnie motivated, so I’d be surprised if they didn’t mix some people in at that spot. I know Harbaugh got a lot of criticism last year for keeping McKinnie in his “doghouse” for so long and not inserting the mammoth left tackle into the starting lineup until the playoffs. But because of that, McKinnie was as fresh as any player in the NFL come playoff time. He also was in far better shape than he was at any point in the regular season and he was as motivated as possible because he was essentially playing for his NFL future. Give McKinnie credit because he played so well in the playoffs, but those other things should be taken into account. McKinnie is clearly the Ravens’ best option at left tackle, though he still needs to prove he can maintain a high level of play over a whole season.
I got a lot of questions about who impressed and who didn’t during the rookie minicamp and I didn’t answer them for a reason. The practices were open to the media for an hour total over three days – the Ravens were under no obligation to open them at all – and it isn’t fair to judge a player on such a small sample size. Some players clearly passed the eye test, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. For example, tight end Murphy Holloway, the former Ole Miss basketball player who was trying to make the transition to football, looked great in a uniform. Several media outlets covering the Ravens, including The Sun, wrote about him. He was cut yesterday. Sure, as Harbaugh pointed out, some of the rookies are further ahead than others. But until the veterans start coming in and the organized team activities start and then training camp, it’s probably foolish to make any conclusions.
Every year, the Ravens seem to land one or two undrafted free agents who come in and make an impact. One guy perhaps worth looking out for is Brynden Trawick, a strong safety out of Troy. And I say that not because of anything I saw from the rookie camp, where Trawick lined up alongside first-round pick Matt Elam, but from the opportunity he could get. The Ravens remain thin at safety beyond Elam, Michael Huff and James Ihedigbo. After withdrawing their exclusive rights tender to Emanuel Cook, the only other safeties on the Ravens’ roster are Trawick, Omar Brown, Anthony Levine and Christian Thompson, who is suspended for the first four games of 2013. Trawick, meanwhile, is 6 feet 2 and 215 pounds and he had 83 tackles and three interceptions during his senior season.
The Ravens love their compensation picks and they figure to get three or four more in next year’s draft after losing linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger and defensive backs Cary Williams and Ed Reed in free agency. The Ravens have yet to sign a player this offseason that will count against them because players released by other teams, such as Elvis Dumervil, Huff and Rolando McClain, don’t factor into the equation the NFL uses to decide on the number of compensatory picks a team gets. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. Because the Ravens had four compensatory picks in this year’s draft, they were willing to sacrifice a couple of other picks to trade up in the second round and grab Arthur Brown. Knowing that they have several more coming next year also could allow the Ravens to sacrifice a middle rounder to add a piece that they feel they lack in training camp. It didn’t necessarily work out, but they did something similar in 2011, trading a fourth-round pick for wide receiver Lee Evans.
It seems that it’s a matter of when, not if, in terms of the Ravens adding a veteran wide receiver. No disrespect to Jacoby Jones, who was one of the primary reasons the Ravens won the Super Bowl last season, but I think most people feel that he’s a far better fit at the No.3 receiver spot. That will allow him to continue to play such an integral role in the return game. But who is even out there that would help the Ravens at this point? Brandon Lloyd is talented for sure. But he brings off-the-field questions and you have to wonder why he couldn’t make it work with Tom Brady and the Patriots. Austin Collie is injury prone, while Randy Moss and Braylon Edwards are too far removed from their best years. At this point, their best free agent options are probably guys like Early Doucet, Laurent Robinson and Brandon Stokley, and can anybody say for sure that they are a clear upgrade from what the Ravens already have? The Ravens have made offseason trades for wide receivers before – see Evans and Anquan Boldin. Perhaps it makes the most sense for the Ravens to go into training camp with their current pass-catching group, and then if need be, try to make a deal with a team that has a surplus of receivers.
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