Left Tackle, If Not McKinnie Then Who?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Ravens seem to be much more optimistic about their offensive line situation than most fans or NFL analysts.

The Baltimore Ravens are happy with their options on the offensive line at the moment per head coach John Harbaugh. The coach sees his group as young, flexible and able to overcome adversity. Harbaugh went on to say that the Ravens have tackle Michael Oher who is capable of playing either tackle position. They have guard/tackle Kelechi Osemele whom Harbaugh believes can excel at right tackle left guard and even left tackle if need be. Well let's hope so because I'm not so sure that Michael Oher has proven to anyone, except John Harbaugh apparently, that he is a capable every day left tackle.

Let's take a look at this for a minute. Say Osemele is the answer the Ravens have been looking for at left tackle and Michael Oher could stay on the right side where he is decidedly much more effective. That would leave Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda at his natural position at right guard and second year, unproven, player Gino Gradkowski at center. The question then would obviously become, who plays left guard? Baltimore has expressed interest in drafting an offensive lineman again this year and they have veterans Jah Reid and Ramon Harewood who have played the position sparingly last season, neither of whom displayed any thing to rave about.

Let's face facts here. The Baltimore Ravens offense and most importantly quarterback Joe Flacco played undeniably better in the post season with Oher at right tackle, Osemele at left guard, Yanda staying at right guard and "guess who?" manning the blind side. Big old Bryant McKinnie, that's who. We can all see that Harbaugh is trying to put his stamp on this team as the long time veteran leaders are leaving via retirement, free agency and trades and McKinnie is not the type of player that Harbaugh looks for when he envisions his team but where else are you going to find the talent and experience that McKinnie brings for the money it would take to sign him?

Harbaugh would love a team full of boy scouts that work hard for their merit badges and don't buck the trend or have any off the field issues but sometimes you have to take a look at what is right in front of you and "take one for the team" as they say.

"If Bryant comes back and we’re able to work that out, then he’ll be the left tackle because he’s a left tackle, and then those other guys can play those other spots," Harbaugh said.

"I’d say we’re flexible right now. We’re going to put the best five in the best spots and try to build the best lineup we can based on who’s there. We’ve got candidates."

Sounds a bit familiar doesn't it. That is exactly what we heard last season before we saw a lineup that featured, from left to right Michael Oher, Ramon Harewood, Matt Birk, Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele. I know McKinnie wasn't in the best shape at the time and he had pissed the front office off something awful with his off season conditioning problems once again but you have to believe that the offensive line would have produced better throughout the season with McKinnie starting on the blind side and Oher on the right. Would he have been able to hold up all season? would he have been as good in the playoffs without the time to get himself together physically and mentally? Who knows. We never will.

I do know that, barring any unforeseen free agent signings or big draft day trades that put the Ravens in a position to draft one of the few top tier left tackles on the big board, Bryant McKinnie is the Ravens best option at left tackle for the 2013 season, especially considering the fact that they are losing starting center and leader of the offensive line Matt Birk. Birk had an outstanding 2012 season for his age or for any age at that. The man went out in style but left the Ravens with a big hole to fill and if they do use an early draft pick on an offensive lineman it could be on someone to provide competition to Gino, just in case everything doesn't go as planned at the center position.

"I think we need another offensive lineman," Harbaugh said. "We like our guys, but we’ve never walked away from a good player."

I'm pretty sure you just walked away from Anquan Boldin, a pretty damn good player that the Ravens were just now figuring out how to use. Boldin didn't have any off the field issues or weight problems but the Ravens sure were quick to get rid of him to save a few million bucks under the salary cap. If something substantial comes from this freed up money it will be understandable. I'm not one to doubt Ozzie Newsome until I've seen the entire picture and we are a long way from that right now.

One thing is for sure though. You build your football team from the inside out. the Ravens have their franchise quarterback in Joe Flacco. They are bolstering their defensive line in free agency and left tackle has to be a primary concern at this point. The Oher on the left experiment has failed thus far and the idea of Osemele starting there is just a bit over the top unless I'm missing something. Bryant McKinnie seems to be the Ravens best option and they should do whatever it takes to retain him for another season.

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