Back in August, Jonathan Ogden, a Baltimore icon and a future resident of Canton, Ohio, told The Baltimore Sun that Ravens left tackle Jared Gaither had the goods to follow in his massive footsteps and become an elite tackle in the NFL.
Sure, the comparisons made sense. The 6-foot-9 Gaither is monstrous, just like Ogden was when he towered over opposing defensive ends. And like Ogden, Gaither is nimble for his size, with good footwork and a lot of athleticism. "The guy's got plenty of room to grow," Ogden said at the time.
But the difference between two — and a sizable problem at the Castle — is that Gaither doesn't seem to possess the same kind of dedication that allowed Ogden to get the most out of his impressive physical tools. Gaither missed the first week of the Ravens' voluntary offseason workouts last week, saying he was rehabbing injuries on his own, even though he knew the team wanted him in Owings Mills. Only after coach John Harbaugh called Gaither out in the media did the 24-year-old man mountain decide to report and workout with his teammates. Gaither showed up Monday.
"Everybody wants to be the best, and I won't sell myself short on being the best," Gaither said back in August. "I'm not the best tackle in the league yet. So there's always room for improvement. Until I'm the best, I have a lot of work to do."
In hindsight, that quote probably prompted you to roll your eyes, right?
The Ravens should be concerned if Gaither isn’t willing to put in the work required to be anything better than an average left tackle in the league. His conditioning has been questioned, and he missed five games to injury in 2009. What’s most concerning is that Gaither is playing for a big pay day, and has a first-round pick named Michael Oher — who also wants to be the Ravens’ left tackle — breathing down his neck. If that’s not inspiring Gaither to be all that he can be, then what will?
The Ravens gave Gaither, a restricted free agent, a first-round tender, meaning he can be had for a first-round pick in this year’s draft. There was speculation that tackle-needy teams such as the Cowboys, Packers and Colts count ante up a late first-rounder for Gaither’s services, but nothing has happened yet. NFL.com reported this week that
, too, and that a second-rounder “could get the trade conversation started” with the Ravens.
At this point, you’d have to think the Ravens would gladly hand their problem off to another team for a first-round pick. And if the Redskins do offer the 37th pick in next month’s draft for Gaither, that would be pretty tempting, too. Having two good young tackles is a luxury, and trust me, the Ravens would rather have a motivated Gaither than an unproven rookie, but let’s think about the possibilities.
With the 25th and 37th picks in the draft, the Ravens could address a couple of big needs (or maybe a big need and a sexy impulse buy) in one of the most stacked drafts in recent memory.
Maybe they take Tennessee nose tackle Dan Williams (should he fall in the draft) to eventually replace Kelly Gregg and a downfield weapon in Georgia Tech wideout Demaryius Thomas. Perhaps they plug two big holes with Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham and Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty. Or if they’re feeling frisky, they could add another edge rusher such as Michigan’s Brandon Graham to their defensive arsenal then add California’s Jahvid Best, a dangerous young running back and returner, to an already loaded backfield.
Or if they wanted to take another tackle to replace Gaither, players such as Anthony Davis, Bruce Campbell and Charles Brown might be available late in the first round or early in the second.
Obviously, it would be in the Ravens’ best interest for Gaither to work his tail off and live up to the potential that everyone, including Ogden, sees in him. But if it’s clear he’s not willing to, the Ravens will have options if they find a taker for him. With all that young talent available next month, there may be no better time to make the move than now.