Ravens offensive line coming into focus

The Ravens are seeing their offensive line come into focus this offseason.

Trading for Jeremy Zuttah addresses one of the most pressing needs this offseason.

The Ravens made it a point to significantly upgrade the center position by trading for Jeremy Zuttah.

And it came at an affordable price, giving up a 2015 fifth-round draft pick to do so. It works great because the Ravens are bound to get a some compensatory picks for the 2015 season with Arthur Jones, Corey Graham, Michael Oher and James Ihedigbo (hasn't signed elsewhere yet but will).

So the Ravens will likely make that pick up, if not at a higher draft position.

With how Gino Gradkowski struggled a year ago, it was a little too much for the Ravens to risk going into the 2014 season. This doesn't mean the Ravens will necessarily give up on Gradkowski. He can play offensive guard and could become a valuable backup that is given an opportunity to start at some point.

By re-signing Eugene Monroe and trading for Zuttah, the Ravens now have solidified four of their offensive linemen for the 2014 season. One spot remains open, with three positions set (LT Monroe, C Zuttah, RG Marshal Yanda).

There would appear to be a couple of options the Ravens, which have an estimated $5 million under the cap.

1) Draft a right tackle to compete with Rick Wagner

This would involve keeping Kelechi Osemele at left guard, a spot he excelled at during the 2012 postseason. Osemele is versatile enough to play both tackle spots and left guard (he'd probably be solid at right guard too), so wherever Osemele winds up in 2014 would likely be John Harbaugh and Gary Kubiak's preference.

If he stays at left guard, that opens up a competition between second-year tackle Rick Wagner and a potential draft pick. Wagner was a superb right tackle at Wisconsin but saw his draft stock take a hit after an average senior season at left tackle. You can never have enough options at tackle, so drafting one that could compete for a starting spot at right tackle while backing up Monroe in case of injury could prove worthwhile.

Options at tackle in the first two rounds include Cyrus Kouandjio, Morgan Moses, Antonio Richardson and Jack Mewhort and Taylor Lewan. With Lewan's recent assault charge, and the fact he was linked to an alleged incident in the aftermath of a rape (something he vehemently denied at the NFL combine), you have to wonder what his status is like on Baltimore's draft board.

2) Focus on offensive guard and move Osemele to right tackle

Osemele was primarily a left tackle at Iowa State and does seem more natural at the position. He spent the entire 2012 regular season at the position when Bryant McKinnie was benched and performed admirably (with a few rookie lapses, of course). He was the starting left guard to begin the 2013 season but a back injury forced an early end to a struggling campaign.

Assumed to be healthy for the 2014 season, Osemele could get his chance to shine once again at right tackle, with the Ravens addressing the need to find a new left guard. If so, there are a lot of guards worthy of being taken in the first two rounds of the upcoming draft.

The top guard is UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo, who seems to be creeping into the first round in certain mock drafts. Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson is another option and he could possibly be taken in the second round.

The most intriguing of the linemen is Notre Dame's Zack Martin, who can line up at both tackle and guard. He makes so much sense, if available, in that he would give the Ravens a chance to plug him and Osemele at both positions to see which they would rather go with. It would also allow the Ravens to reshuffle their line without much worry in the event of injuries.


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