As my colleague Evan Mazza mentioned earlier today, the Baltimore Ravens need to solidify the offensive line this offseason starting with re-signing right tackle Rick Wagner which I agree with. I’ll take it a step further and say not only do the Ravens need to solidify the offensive line, the unit needs to represent the identity of the entire offense. This offensive line needs to be the biggest strength for the Ravens offense going forward.
When you look at the Ravens offense since 1996, the team has no doubt had its struggles with this unit. However, when you look at the Ravens offensive line, it has always been a unit on offense that the Ravens have had success finding talent. The Ravens over the last 21 seasons have drafted pro bowl players along the offensive line such as Jonathan Ogden, Edwin Mulitalo, Marshal Yanda, Ben Grubbs and Kelechi Osemele. Rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley who hasn’t made a pro bowl yet, but he looks to be on his way in his own right.
The Ravens always talk about being physical at the line of scrimmage, but the struggles in the running game since 2013 is a big reason why the team has missed the playoffs in three out of the last four seasons. When the Ravens run the football well and commit to the run, the team historically has been successful on the field.
The offensive line needs to be the identity of the Ravens offense going forward and that means a heavy investment along the unit needs to continue. The Ravens trended in that direction in the 2016 NFL Draft by selecting Stanley and Alex Lewis who both ended up being day one starters on the left side of the offensive line this season. The Ravens can continue this trend by re-signing Wagner as mentioned earlier and invest in a young starting center as well as a solid backup tackle/guard in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Given history, it is unlikely that the Ravens will find a stud wide receiver in free agency or in the 2017 NFL Draft. With the tight end position already clogged up between Dennis Pitta, Maxx Williams, Crockett Gillmore, Nick Boyle and Darren Waller, it is unlikely that the Ravens will look elsewhere for another tight end.
The Ravens already have a solid foundation at running back between Terrance West, Kenneth Dixon and Buck Allen. Lean on them and allow the offensive line to go to work in the running game which in turn keeps pressure off of quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco is the leader of the offense and ultimately as he goes, the Ravens go. But at the same time, the offensive line sets the tone.
This organization prides itself on not only being physical, but being a bully in the trenches on both sides of the ball. You can’t be a bully in the trenches on a consistent basis while throwing the ball over 40 times the way the Ravens did in 2015 and in 2016.
Looking for a pro bowl wide receiver or tight end immediately might not be the best thing since the Ravens have small success finding pro bowl talent in both of those areas. The best receiver the Ravens have ever drafted was tight end Todd Heap in 2001 and it isn’t debatable. Pitta has had a solid run with the Ravens since 2010, but he isn’t on the level of what Heap was from 2002-2010.
The Ravens organization needs to stick to what they do best which is finding talent along the offensive line going forward. That’s how you maintain an identity on offense for years to come because Flacco isn’t going to be here forever.