Baltimore Ravens

Preston: Ravens would really feel loss of McClain

The Ravens have lost three starters in free agency, but it's nothing to have major concerns about. Now, if they lose inside linebacker Jameel McClain, it might be time to get a little nervous.

The departure of left guard Ben Grubbs to New Orleans was a major loss. He was the Ravens' best offensive lineman and about to enter his peak years in the NFL. But the best teams in the NFL always lose quality players because other teams raid them through free agency, so traditional favorites like the Steelers, Ravens and Colts will lose big-name players occasionally. I don't know if Evan Mathis is the answer for Grubbs, but he is certainly a stop-gap player for at least a year, having played in Philadelphia, Miami, Carolina and Cincinnati.

My question is: Where is Andre Gurode? He was a backup guard/center last year, and no team is talking him up, much like last year when teams backed away from him partly because of knee problems. He is certainly a better center than guard, and could help the Ravens this season. With the departure of Grubbs, it appears the Ravens will probably draft a center or guard in the first round.

The loss of McClain would scare me. You need a certain unselfish-type player in the middle along with veteran Ray Lewis. You want a player who is going to throw his body around and be a crash dummy while Lewis makes the tackles. Bart Scott did it when he played for the Ravens, and McClain has done it well the past two seasons. I'm not sure if Dannell Ellerbe is that type of player.

The Ravens can replace outside linebacker Jarret Johnson, and he'll be great with the Chargers. They need some tough guys. Defensive end Cory Redding played well at times, but had no presence late in the season and in the playoffs. The Ravens have capable replacements with Arthur Jones and Pernell McPhee.

Haruki Nakamura apparently is heading to Carolina. I always liked him and never thought he got a fair chance here to play. Regardless of how well he played on special teams or whether those in front of him performed poorly, the Ravens always thought of him as a backup.