Patrick Mekari was undrafted when he made the Ravens’ 53-man roster as a rookie. He was undrafted when he started at center and guard over his first two years and when he took over at right tackle this season. He was undrafted when he signed a three-year contract extension Thursday worth a reported $15.3 million.
It has become an identity for Mekari as much as a descriptor: undrafted, the guy nobody wanted. Until, well, the Ravens couldn’t afford to lose him.
“As an undrafted guy, it’s very much one day, one game at a time, one year at a time,” Mekari said Friday of his humble origins in Baltimore. “So each year and each day, I was just focused on proving myself and getting better each day, and it’s the same now. I’m not going to change my mindset about it. I’m still undrafted. That doesn’t change. So the mindset stays the same that I still have to get better. So I have to prove myself every day, and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Mekari arrived at Ravens training camp in 2019 not knowing whether he’d make it past the roster cuts in August. He arrived late at practice Thursday because he had to sign a contract extension through 2024.
In a statement, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta called it an “easy decision.” Mekari, in his first season out wide since he starred at California, has gritted his way through ankle and hand injuries and emerged as a starting-level tackle capable of holding his own against some of the NFL’s top edge defenders. Coach John Harbaugh on Friday called Mekari “one of the best guys you’ll ever come across.”
“He does all the things that, if you’re a young player and you want to look at how to be successful in the National Football League, what priority, how to organize yourself, how to work, how to make the most of yourself as a football player, he’s the guy to look at,” he said. “Because he does it perfectly, day in and day out. And I just have great admiration for him, great respect for him, and very happy for him. It’s well deserved.”
With the Ravens busy preparing for Sunday’s crucial game against the Los Angeles Rams, the versatile Mekari’s future along the offensive line beyond this season is still to be determined. At tackle, Ronnie Stanley and Ja’Wuan James are both coming off season-ending injuries. Alejandro Villanueva is under contract through next season but has struggled in pass protection this season. Tyre Phillips’ availability over his first two years has been iffy, and he projected as a guard when he arrived in Baltimore.
Mekari joked Friday that his “understanding” is that “I’m still employed by the Ravens, and whatever they ask me to do, that’s my job.” Harbaugh said Mekari’s strong play at right tackle hasn’t changed the team’s thinking on where he fits long-term. It could be anywhere.
“It wasn’t like we were surprised he could play right tackle,” Harbaugh said. “He’s played left tackle. He’s played both guard spots and he’s played center. So I think a big part of his value is the fact that he can do all the jobs.
“We do have a saying around here: ‘The more you can do.’ And what it basically means is, the more you can do, the better off you’re going to be. They have more value. And his value is the fact that he does all those things so well. And that’s unusual. That’s a talent. That’s not something that you see every day. It’s not always celebrated, but that kind of versatility is a big plus on a football team, especially in the offensive line.”
For Mekari, who signed his contract and called his family and close friends with the good news while wearing a personalized mechanic shirt, nothing important has changed since signing his extension. Before he showed up to practice Friday, Mekari said, “I tied my shoelaces and got to work the same way as I always do.”
Maybe the biggest change is to his bank account. But Mekari said he hadn’t even considered what he might do with his new millions. He was still spending like an undrafted player, too.
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“If it was really up to me, I’d get a coffee can, I’d put the money underneath my bed,” he said. “I wouldn’t really think about it or look at it much. But my financial adviser does not advise me to do that.”