CINCINNATI — The reality that he may have played his final football game for the Ravens didn't just dawn on right offensive tackle Michael Oher.
A pending unrestricted free agent, Oher has been prepared for that possibility for a long time, though he says he would ideally like to remain with the team.
Now that Oher's $13.499 million rookie contract has expired, Oher faces an uncertain future.
The Ravens have conducted preliminary contract talks with the 2009 first-round draft pick in the past about striking a long-term deal, according to league sources. However, the two sides never got close to the numbers it would have taken for Oher to sign and haven't conducted contract discussions recently.
"Oh man, I've enjoyed being a Raven," Oher said following the Ravens' season-ending 34-17 defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. "I'll always be a Raven. I love it, but I don't know. It's not in my hands to get done."
Complicating Oher's status and making it less likely that the Ravens will retain him are two factors: the presence of left tackle Eugene Monroe, whom the team intends to try to re-sign after acquiring him via trade from the Jacksonville Jaguars, and a tight salary-cap situation.
Oher allowed a team-high eight sacks and 42 quarterback hurries this season, according to Pro Football Focus. He had five penalties this season, but is the most frequently penalized player in the NFL since entering the NFL.
Oher plays the game with a nasty streak and has a powerful hand punch. The athletic 6-foot-4, 315-pounder has started 80 consecutive games since being drafted out of Ole Miss.
There's expected to be a market for him as an experienced, durable right tackle who also has starting experience in the past at left tackle.
As a right tackle, Oher's compensation will be much lower than the pay of a left tackle.
Former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker predicted that the Ravens will try to retain Monroe instead of Oher.
"I think left tackles are harder to find," said Tucker, a Sirius NFL Radio analyst. "Eugene is a little more polished and has better feet than Oher. My concern with Oher is I'm not sure he's really gotten much better. He's still making the same mistakes. The positives for Michael is he's very aggressive, very physical, very durable.
"Guys with those traits remain right tackles in the NFL for a long time. He'll sign elsewhere and get a pretty good contract somewhere else. The Ravens kind of know his flaws with the penalties and some inconsistencies in pass protection. I wouldn't be surprised if the Ravens put Ricky Wagner in there at right tackle next season."