Guard Marshal Yanda, the longtime linchpin of the Ravens’ offensive line, will announce his retirement Wednesday, ending a Hall of Fame career after 13 NFL seasons in Baltimore.
Yanda, 35, was honored as an All-Pro selection seven times and named to the Pro Bowl eight times, the most among active guards. With an unmatched work ethic, commitment to technique and legendary toughness, Yanda evolved from a third-round draft pick into one of the NFL’s most respected and dominant players.
Yanda, who signed a contract extension through 2020 last offseason but left open the possibility of retiring, is scheduled to address his decision at a news conference Wednesday morning. Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta, executive vice president Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh will join him at the team’s Owings Mills facility.
Yanda had considered retiring after the 2018 season, but he returned to help anchor an offense that set the NFL record for rushing yards in a single season as well as franchise records for total offense and points. After the Ravens won an NFL-best 14 games last season, he was one of six Ravens named All-Pro — and the NFL’s oldest player so honored.
Harbaugh said in November that Yanda was “playing some of his best football, if not his best football, right now.” According to ESPN, he graded out as the NFL’s top pass-blocking guard in 2019, while Pro Football Focus rated him the league’s No. 4 run-blocking guard and No. 5 guard overall. Over nearly 1,000 offensive snaps during the regular season, Yanda did not commit a single penalty.
With his retirement, the Ravens will get $7 million in salary cap relief a week before free agency starts. But replacing his leadership and intelligence will be difficult. Other than recent signing Andre Smith, backup Hroniss Grasu, 28, is the team’s oldest offensive lineman. Ben Powers, a fourth-round pick who played sparingly as a rookie last season, is likely the top in-house option at right guard. The team could also address the position in free agency or through the draft.
“At one time, he was a rookie, young and playing and having someone helping him and tutoring him,” offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris said of Yanda in October. “And he's doing the same thing now. And then on game day, he does his job like he's supposed to. His famous quote is, 'Just do your job.' And what he does? He does his job. And that's what he asks all the other guys to do. Just do your job to the best of your ability."
Among Ravens offensive linemen, only Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden has done it better. In November, Yanda appeared in his 186th career game for the Ravens (postseason included), the most by a lineman in franchise history. From 2013 to 2016, he was voted one of the NFL’s top 100 players every season by fellow players. If not for a season-ending ankle injury in 2017, Yanda might have finished his career with nine straight Pro Bowl selections.
Nothing about his rise to stardom was predicted. Before he emerged as an All-Big Ten lineman, he was a quiet, hardworking junior-college player from a 1,000-acre farm. On fall Sundays at North Iowa Area Community College, he’d often drive to Iowa’s campus to watch the Hawkeyes practice and hope they might notice him. He didn’t get an offer from their staff until the day he was set to sign a letter of intent with Iowa State.
After the Ravens drafted him No. 86 overall in 2007, almost 60 picks after first-round selection Ben Grubbs, Yanda was a Day One starter — at right tackle. He stood out as a bookend, but he excelled inside, where he mauled run defenders who got in his way and was nearly impenetrable in pass protection. Over a 47-game stretch from 2015 to last October, he didn't allow a sack, according to PFF.
“I just have a lot of respect for him and his body of work and how he plays,” Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told Baltimore reporters last season. “I always have. It’s obvious that he’s the heartbeat of that unit and has been for a long time.”
Yanda embodied the ethos of offensive line play, finding glory in grit. Tales of his pain tolerance are legion — how he agreed to be tased for $600 as a rookie, how he returned to action days after undergoing surgery in 2012 to relieve pressure related to a serious condition known as compartment syndrome, how he moved from right guard to left guard so that he could more easily play with a torn right labrum in 2016.
In the Ravens locker room, there were few veterans who became more widely respected. When Yanda was preparing to stop an opposing lineman, he’d watch game after game of film, divining what move might come in a fourth-quarter third-and-long. When he’d go back home in the offseason, he’d keep a pair of old shoes at Iowa’s football facility, where he worked out, as a “reminder of that first Pro Bowl, what it took,” Hawkeyes strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle said last year.
In Yanda’s final season, he played and led and carried himself as if he might never get another chance to enjoy life in the trenches. Young teammates like right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and center Matt Skura hailed his work around the facility as exemplary. After a Week 9 win over the New England Patriots, he celebrated by picking up DeCosta in the locker room as if he were a bale of hay. And with outside linebacker Terrell Suggs no longer in Baltimore, the normally reserved Yanda even shared pregame speech duties with safety Earl Thomas III.
When the Ravens’ Super Bowl hopes ended with a stunning playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans in January, he declined to answer questions about his future. His passion and pride hadn’t waned; he called out a Titans lineman whom he said had spat in his face, saying, "There’s no place for that in the NFL.”
But after the locker room emptied and the season’s finality set in, he posed for pictures with family members on the M&T Bank Stadium field, one final moment to cherish in a Ravens uniform.
Latest Baltimore Ravens
As a freshman in college, Yanda recalled in an interview last season, he’d decided he would “sacrifice everything for football.” On Wednesday, he’ll step away with a growing family, a Super Bowl ring and an enduring legacy as a Ravens icon. He’d done his job, and then some.