Baltimore Ravens

Unassuming Ravens tackle Rick Wagner could be playing his way to big contract

It's easy to get overlooked on the Ravens, and more so on the offensive line. Marshal Yanda is a five-time Pro Bowler at right guard. Center Jeremy Zuttah is the ninth-year anchor in the middle. And rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley was the sixth overall pick in the 2016 draft.

The lack of attention might be frustrating to some, but to right tackle Rick Wagner, it is welcomed.


"No, I'm fine. I don't want any attention," he said. "I think that's just the mark of a good O-lineman. You don't really want to know who he is. He's just doing his job."

That modesty is not just a front. Many of Wagner's teammates said he is a quiet man who is content to sit back and let others do the talking. That doesn't mean Wagner won't chime in if the situation calls for another voice, but he won't challenge outside linebacker Terrell Suggs in volume or frequency.


"He's not an outward, vocal guy," guard/center John Urschel said. "More soft-spoken. He does his speaking with his play and consistency — just how consistent he is in his sets, in his footwork and in his technique. That's what speaks volumes."

Without much fanfare, Wagner has been putting together a solid season. Among the team's offensive linemen, Wagner has started 11 of 12 games at right tackle, trailing only Zuttah in number of starts at the same position.

Wagner has also earned the line's second-highest grade from Pro Football Focus. He owns an 83.8 grade, which trails only Yanda's 89.1 rating. Wagner's grade ranks eighth among right tackles and 17th among all offensive tackles in the league.

His play has been noticed by coach John Harbaugh, who said last week that Wagner was playing some of his best football in his career.

"He has been able to stack throughout the course of the season a lot of really high-effort practices, and it is paying off for him," Harbaugh said.

Wagner has been a mainstay on the offensive line since 2010, when he won the starting right tackle position at his home state school, Wisconsin. He started 37 of 51 games at that spot and was named to the watch list for the Outland Trophy, which recognizes college football's best interior lineman.

In the 2013 draft, the Ravens used a fifth-round choice to select Wagner. In 2014, he was tabbed as the starting right tackle to replace Michael Oher, who had left via free agency to join the Carolina Panthers.

Wagner's welcome-to-the-NFL moment also involved Oher. After the latter suffered an ankle injury and was forced to leave the team's 2013 season opener against the Denver Broncos, Wagner jumped in and gave up 2½ sacks to outside linebacker Shaun Phillips in a 22-point loss.


Yanda, who has played alongside Wagner for four seasons, said Wagner never let that poor showing plant seeds of doubt about his ability to play.

"Everybody's a young player once, but he's kept getting better as a player," Yanda said. "That's what you want to do. When you're a young guy, you just want to keep getting better because everybody has room to grow and you just want to keep getting better as a football player. I've seen him improve as a football player every year, and he's just a consistent player."

Many of Wagner's offensive linemates said one of his greatest strengths is his desire to listen and learn. Wagner, in turn, said that has been easy to do when the unit is headed by Yanda and Zuttah.

"The way that they prepare for the week is special," he said. "If you watch them in the film room or if you watch them on the practice field, they're 10 years deep, and they're still treating every practice like it's the most important day of the week. … They're great leaders down the line, and if I can just try to be like them, I can have success like them."

Wagner's strong campaign suggests that he might be playing himself out of the Ravens' price range. In the final year of a rookie deal worth $2.3 million, Wagner could ask for an extension similar to the five-year, $32 million contract the Atlanta Falcons' Ryan Schraeder signed on Nov. 21.

Wagner, who applauded Schraeder's new deal, acknowledged that his future beyond this season has crept into his mind.

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"I'm just kind of curious," he said. "You don't know where you're going to be in a couple months. So it's something that's going to pop into your mind from time to time."

Fellow offensive tackle James Hurst said Wagner has not allowed his impending status with the team to affect his play on the field.

"If he feels the pressure, we don't see it, and that's just kind of a testament to the way he is," Hurst said. "But we know he's worked hard, and we know what he wants, and we feel like that's what he deserves because that's the kind of guy he is and player he is."

In many ways, Wagner is still the quiet guy he was when he joined the Ravens. Urschel recalled that it took Wagner a couple of months to get comfortable, while Hurst said Wagner opened up after a full year. Teammates contend that Wagner has a dry wit, but he prefers that his actions and results speak for him.

"I just want to do my job to get the wins," Wagner said. "That's all that really matters. You can have a great game personally, but if you end up with a loss you still feel like crap. I just want to do my best to get the wins."