Baltimore Ravens

After this season, either Marshal Yanda or Kelechi Osemele must go

Through the years, Ravens offensive guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele have tried not to allow too much pressure, but they are about to put the Ravens in a tough situation.

The team enters 2015 with one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, but at the end of the season both Yanda and Osemele will become unrestricted free agents.


Which one will the Ravens re-sign? Will it be Yanda, the perennial Pro Bowl performer, or Osemele, who is just reaching the peak of his career?

It's nearly impossible to sign both because each will command top dollar on the free agent market. Teams usually reserve the highest-paid position on the offensive line for a quality left tackle, not a guard — and definitely not two.


Plus, the Ravens also have to restructure Joe Flacco's contract after this season because the eighth-year quarterback is expected to make $18 million in base salary in 2016.

Something has to give. Someone has to leave.

Regardless, it won't be an easy decision. Of the two, the Ravens should try to re-sign Yanda first, even though he is four years older than Osemele. He has been to four straight Pro Bowls and can play either guard or tackle.

He is a leader who has the pulse of this team on the field and in the locker room, a veteran that a head coach like John Harbaugh values. Yanda is also a technician and tough guy, and teams can't have enough of those players on the roster.

But here is the rub on Yanda: He just might be the best guard in the NFL, and even if he isn't, he is going to ask for the same type of money as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Logan Mankins, the highest-paid guard in the league, whose contract averages $8.5 million per year.

If Osemele wasn't so good, the Ravens could play one against the other, but they don't have that leverage.

So, if Yanda is going to earn that type of money, Osemele will ask for similar pay. Whoever gets the offer first from the Ravens likely will stay — the other will probably leave Baltimore.

But in both cases, neither player has to hurry, especially Osemele.


This will be his second contract, the one in which he expects to make the most money during his career. He is big, strong and has long arms, which makes him more of a prototypical tackle than a guard.

He lacks the initial and overall power of Yanda, but the Ravens don't have another offensive lineman who can finish a block like Osemele. He had a back problem, which forced him to miss the second half of the 2013 season, and he sat out two games last year with knee problems. But other teams won't back away from pursuing him because his best years are still to come.

The Ravens are in a precarious situation, but it's not all their fault. They had a bargain deal with former left tackle Bryant McKinnie, but once that experiment failed they had to bring in Eugene Monroe, who re-signed last March for five years and $37.5 million

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If Gino Gradkowski had played better, the Ravens wouldn't have had to trade with Tampa Bay for center Jeremy Zuttah last season. In football, these things just happen.

For now, the Ravens can only enjoy the moment. In Yanda and Osemele, they have two quality guards who can run and make blocks into the second level. They both have strong work ethics and still play like they have something to prove.

A year ago, the Ravens set a franchise single-season record in yards (5,838) and points (409), and a lot of credit was given to Flacco, running back Justin Forsett and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.


But if you take a deeper look, two of the best performers were Yanda and Osemele, who have earned big pay days. Unfortunately, only one will probably earn that in Baltimore.

The other probably has to leave.