The Ravens enter this offseason with one goal in mind: find the pieces of the puzzle to make the 2017 postseason. Some pieces are in place, but there is more to find as they enter the process of free agency and the draft. While some of the pieces include cornerback help, one or two wide receivers and another pass rusher, the most important piece is completing the offensive line.
Three lineman are guaranteed to be back next season. Ronnie Stanley, who is coming off an exceptional rookie season, Alex Lewis had a good rookie year in his own right and Marshal Yanda was well, Marshal Yanda. Center Jeremy Zuttah is not guaranteed to be back and based on his play the last two years, he should not be retained and must become a cap casualty. The money from the release of Zuttah can be used to help find other needs. Maybe even signing their most important free agent and the man who lines up next to Yanda, right tackle Rick Wagner.
While defensive tackle Brandon Williams is the teams best player of their 2017 free agent class and one of the best players available on the open market, he isn't the teams most important and not as valuable as Wagner. As good as Williams is, re-signing him and sending Wagner packing would be a mistake. Not to mention the fact that the team does have depth at the defensive tackle position and the man behind Wagner is James Hurst. I think that name speaks for itself.
The Ravens talked about the importance of bringing back a consistent running game and letting your starting right tackle walk, which would leave two needs along the offensive line, would be a risk not worth taking. Keeping Wagner would just leave one more spot left open on the offensive line to go after in free agency and the draft. In a situation like that, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome can have some fun.
At the end of the season press conference, Newsome talked about creating a bigger and stronger offensive line and head coach John Harbaugh expressed that same sentiment. They are correct and it should be their main priority. The Ravens haven't had a true center since Matt Birk, and it is imperative that they find one this offseason. Aside from free agency and the draft, the team could opt to give John Urschel a chance as the starting center since he does have experience. Either way, it wouldn't be good for quarterback Joe Flacco and running backs Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon if Zuttah is back next season.
The Ravens haven’t had a consistent alignment on the offensive line in several years. The constants have been guys like Marshal Yanda and Rick Wagner, but you have seen a revolving door at the other positions. Whether its due to injuries, departures in free agency, or acquired players not working out such as Zuttah, Bryant McKinnie, and Eugene Monroe. The team must find that one true alignment that can be there for the next four or five years. You can't keep having a revolving door along the offensive line because chemistry is so key at that position.
The Ravens will have to find a new offensive line coach with the departure of Juan Castillo before they pursue players, but it doesn't change the fact that now more than ever, the Ravens have a chance to complete an offensive line that will stick around and create the chemistry they need to succeed. All you have to do is watch the Dallas Cowboys offensive line today and you will see what the Ravens really need. Lewis, Stanley, and Yanda are already here to stay, but Baltimore must retain Wagner and find a replacement for Zuttah. The Ravens are on the brink of having a very good offensive line that they can keep around for years and they can't waste this chance.