Ravens turn focus to the offensive line

Gino Gradkowski
(Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun)

Ravens coach John Harbaugh made it clear that despite a busy two weeks, the Ravens aren't done in free agency. They still have more work to do throughout their roster, including an offensive line that remains under construction.

Harbaugh revealed part of the organization's plans for the offensive line on Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings, indicating that recent trade acquisition Jeremy Zuttah will be the starting center and Kelechi Osemele is in line to start at left guard rather than right tackle. With Eugene Monroe entrenched at left tackle and Marshal Yanda at right guard, that leaves a vacancy at right tackle, where Harbaugh said second-year pro Rick Wagner currently sits atop the depth chart over Jah Reid.


"We are really confident in Rick and Jah. Those are two guys that will compete for the right tackle spot," Harbaugh said on the second day of the owners meetings at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes resort. "As [owner Steve Bisciotti] mentioned, no glaring holes, that tells you we feel confident in our offensive line as it's constructed right now. But that's not to say we're not going to try to get better.

"If we draft a guard, high, that would move Kelechi out to tackle. If we draft a tackle somewhere in there or someone comes in and wins the job, then they're the best player. But what we have been able to construct at this point is depth. We've got a nice front. We feel like we've got the right kind of players in there that can be the type of offensive line that we envision — tough physical, big strong, fast offensive line and smart, too."

Fixing an offensive line that struggled last season to protect quarterback Joe Flacco and open up holes for running back Ray Rice was one of the Ravens' top offseason priorities. They re-signed Monroe on the first day of free agency and then agreed to send a 2015 fifth-round pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Zuttah on Sunday.

Harbaugh said that he called Gino Gradkowski, who struggled as a first-year starting center last season, to tell him that Zuttah was brought to the team to start. Zuttah is bigger, more athletic and more experienced than Gradkowski, and has a "knack" for the offensive schemes the Ravens will run, according to Harbaugh.

Osemele, meanwhile, is more comfortable at left guard, where he moved to from right tackle for the Ravens' playoff run in 2012. He started the Ravens' first seven games at left guard last season before going down with a back injury that ultimately required surgery. He's been working out and should be ready for training camp.

"Right now, the plan is to play him at left guard. That's where I see him playing next year," Harbaugh said of Osemele. "Could that change? Certainly, with the draft and that kind of thing. But let's keep him in there at left guard."

The one question mark is at right tackle, the position that Michael Oher manned all last season. But he's now with the Tennessee Titans, leaving Wagner, a fifth-round pick who played sparingly as a rookie, and Reid, who has been a big disappointment, battling for that spot. The Ravens, though, are expected to either draft or sign a tackle to provide competition for the two unproven players.

"Rick probably goes in as the starting right tackle right now. That's the way I see it. We aren't playing a game right now so it really doesn't matter," Harbaugh said. "He and Jah will be competing and Jah is very determined right now as he should be. It's going to be a good battle and we'll see if we add somebody in the mix."


The Ravens still could have at least $6 million of salary cap space when Zuttah's reworked contract goes through, but they still have a host of needs on both sides of the ball.

"There's always more to be done," Harbaugh said. "I don't know if Steve and [general manager Ozzie Newsome] feel that way, but I sure feel that way. And I do think they feel that way."

After failing to land Brandon Weeden, who signed with the Dallas Cowboys after his release from the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens are looking to add another quarterback with three-year backup Tyrod Taylor a year away from free agency. Harbaugh said that the team has been "disappointed" in Taylor's play and he's much better than he's shown.

They want to add depth at running back and wide receiver and they badly need another tight end to complement Dennis Pitta. Harbaugh acknowledged that the Ravens are still talking about re-signing free-agent tight Ed Dickson, while they also still have interest in Owen Daniels, who played under Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and tight ends coach Brian Pariani in Houston.

On defense, Harbaugh said that the Ravens are prioritizing bolstering the defensive line after losing tackle Arthur Jones to the Indianapolis Colts just minutes into free agency. Second-year player Brandon Williams will get an opportunity to replace Jones with Kapron Lewis-Moore also entering the mix.

After losing Corey Graham to the Buffalo Bills, the Ravens know they need to find another cornerback to compete with Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson for the nickel back role. And despite signing free agent Darian Stewart to a one-year, $1.3 million deal, the Ravens are looking to add another safety. Harbaugh spent significant time in his hotel room this week watching tape of the safeties in the draft.


"It's a process for sure," Harbaugh said. "I think we've made full use of the first couple phases of free agency, but you guys know there's still more to it. There's going to be some cap casualties, we still have some of our own players that we're talking to, there's still a couple free agents out there that we are involved with. Then will be the draft, then the June 1 cuts, then finalizing our roster throughout training camp. I think we're actively engaged with a number of guys, some on our team and some who are free agents."