As most already know the Baltimore Ravens have recently added some depth to the interior of their offensive line by signing former Steeler, Eagle and, most recently, Colt A.Q. Shipley. Shipley got the starting nod for a good part of the season in 2012 due to injuries to the Colts starters and he took advantage of his chances by grading out very well at seasons end.
Shipley was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the seventh round in 2009, signed a three year contract then was waived by the team only to be re-signed to the practice squad shortly there after. However, he did grade out well in the Colts system last season so he is showing a good up side since his rookie year. Shipley is familiar with Ravens run game coordinator Juan Castillo from his days in Philadelphia and should have a pretty good idea of his zone blocking schemes from their time together.
The big question that has been raised since the Ravens brought in A.Q is, what does this mean for second year lineman and heir apparent to Matt Birk, Gino Gradkowski? Gradkowski was almost ensured the starting job when Birk retired even though the Ravens did draft a potential center in Ryan Jensen. Gradkowski only saw real time in one game last season when the Ravens sat out most of their starters against the Cincinnati Bengals in the last game of the season. The Bengals, however, did play their starters and Gradkowski got to start against a top flight defensive line for the first time in his professional career. He actually held his own and played well despite his limited professional experience.
So, do the Ravens have confidence in Gradkowski or are they preparing for the fact that he may not yet be up to the task of leading an offensive line at the NFL level? Of course, when the question is asked of the team, you get a lot of "coach speak" about creating competition and having both players push each other to get the most out of them in training camp. Perhaps this is true. The Ravens did need interior line depth and Shipley is a quality back up with NFL experience and all it cost was a conditional 7th round pick.
The Ravens are looking to have a very strong offensive line with the recent addition of Bryant McKinnie as well but the only real question was the center position. It will be very interesting to watch this position battle in camp as most fans just penciled in Gradkowski at center until now. If, for some reason, Shipley wins the job we will have our answer. For now let's take a poll and find out what the fans think.