BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 19: The Kansas City Chiefs defense lines up against the Baltimore Ravens offense during the first half of a preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium on August 19, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
The Baltimore Ravens have had a relatively quiet off-season, mostly signing under-the-radar outside free agents and a few of their own home-grown talents. While that’s all well and good, one of the Ravens’ biggest positional needs has gone un-improved up to this point: the offensive line.
By now, most have heard or seen that the Ravens have offered offensive lineman Jason Brown-formerly a member of the St. Louis Rams and originally drafted by Baltimore in 2005-a "conservative" one-year contract.
After the departure of guard Ben Grubbs this off-season, the Ravens are left with a gaping hole and noticeable weakness on the interior of their offensive line. Couple Grubbs’ absence with the age and durability concerns of center Matt Birk, now entering his 15th season and 35 years old, and the Ravens will need to focus on revamping and re-building large portions of their offensive line this off-season
Of course, the Ravens will most likely select at least one top-flight lineman in the upcoming draft somewhere between the 1st- 3rd round(s) that can come in and contribute immediately, but signing a veteran, experienced interior lineman like Brown could be a huge coup for a team in desperate need of not only starting linemen, but solid depth and role players as well.
(More on Jason Brown after the "Jump".)
Jason Brown was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the 4th round (124th overall) of the 2005 NFL Draft. While with the Ravens, Brown played at both center and guard for extended periods of time. In 2007, Brown started all 16 games for the Ravens at guard and in 2008 made the switch back to center and started in each game that season as well.
After the 2008 season, in February of 2009, Brown signed a 5-year, $37.5 million contract with the St. Louis Rams, of which $20 million was guaranteed, making Brown the highest paid center in the league at the time. Now, after 3 years in St. Louis, Brown was released this off-season as the Rams are pressing the re-set button and starting anew under the new regime of head coach Jeff Fisher.
If the Ravens could somehow pull-off the signing of Brown, he could prove to be a major piece to the puzzle heading into next season where the Ravens’ most glaring weakness, as it stands now before the draft, is their offensive line. With Brown’s ability to play at guard and center, he could fill two needs at once. With the left guard spot up for grabs, Brown could prove to be healthy competition for 2nd-year player Jah Reid and any rookie linemen that the Ravens may draft next week. And, if for some reason the incumbent starting center Matt Birk should suffer an injury, Brown should have no problem stepping in to snap the ball. At 6-3 230 lbs., Brown has also proven very durable over his 7-year career, only missing two games in the past five years.
As good as it all sounds; the Ravens will have their work cut out for themselves due to the salary cap restraints that the front office is working through. The Ravens reportedly have about $1.8 million in available space to work with so signing Brown may be easier said than done.
Even with the Ravens’ salary cap limitations, NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora can envision a possible reuniting between Brown and the Ravens:
"Brown could still end up with the Ravens — he enjoyed his time with the team, and Baltimore needs a guard who can help replace Ben Grubbs (who left via free agency) and offer additional protection for aging center Matt Birk. But Brown is seeing what the market will bear and taking his time mulling his options."
Although the Ravens have already offered Brown a contract, that shouldn’t mean that drafting offensive lineman is less of a priority for GM Ozzie Newsome and the rest of the front office, but Brown would be a solid signing to compete with the younger players and would add additional depth and insurance to the Ravens’ overall shaky offensive line.
At just 28 years old, Brown still has several years of solid football ahead and with his versatility and ability to play at multiple positions along the offensive line, a quality that the Ravens desire, Brown is and should be an attractive prospect for the Ravens.