Baltimore Ravens veteran center Matt Birk has decided he wants to return for his 15th NFL season, but the team has not decided if they want to re-sign the free agent. Birk's body has absorbed a ton of punishment between his time with the Minnesota Vikings and the last three years anchoring the middle of the Ravens offensive line. While considered one of the best centers of the past decade, Birk had his ups and downs with Baltimore, most recently getting manhandled by New England Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork in the AFC Championship Game loss.
However, Birk is an excellent leader on the offensive line, barking out signals to his line-mates and is also an extremely well-spoken player. He has already committed to donating his brain to study the effects of head injury issues that have resulted in so many traumatic issues to former players. He also most recently was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.
If Birk does return to the team, would the Ravens still consider drafting atop-notch center such as Wisconsin's Peter Konz, with their first pick in the NFL Draft? Konz is largely considered the best center prospect in this draft class and despite his disappointing effort in the bench press (19 reps) at the NFL Scouting Combine, still appears to be a first or early second round selection.
Depending on what the team does with signing their own or other free agents, the decision to bring back Birk could possibly mean the team will not be able to keep left guard Ben Grubbs, although the word from head coach John Harbaugh is that the team has offered Grubbs "a lot of money."
If that happens, the Ravens might still decide to draft Konz and then install him right away into Grubbs' left guard slot. Although, according to a story on BaltimoreRavens.com, Konz has never played the position, he says that he is willing to play wherever he is needed. The story states that Konz is the most "Birk-like" center in this year's draft class. He could then follow the same path that former Ravens left guard Jason Brown followed when he started his NFL career at left guard then moved to center and ultimately a huge free agent payday of his own when he left the team for greener pastures with the St. Louis Rams.
Konz could start at left guard, meanwhile be mentored by Birk, who would be an excellent teacher and perhaps even a future offensive line coach in the league. Once Birk retires for good, Konz could just seamlessly slide over to the center position without a difficult transition period. That would give QB Joe Flacco and the team the makings of a solid combination of center and signal-caller for years to come.