Before the Baltimore Ravens began to work on their wide receiver unit this offseason, the team had some decisions to make along the offensive line as key figures Alex Lewis and Marshal Yanda are coming back from season-ending injuries. Baltimore gave James Hurst, who started at left guard in place for the injured Lewis, a 4-year contract worth up to $17.5 million. Austin Howard, the teams starting right tackle from 2017, was not retained.
Hurst and Howard both did well at their positions last year, and with Lewis coming back, it appeared Hurst would remain at left guard with Lewis competing for the right tackle job. After all, with the contract that was given to Hurst, you would think that was the Ravens intention for the offensive line heading into 2018. However, head coach John Harbaugh said something different at the owners meetings on Tuesday morning:
I abstained from live tweeting John Harbaugh's owner's meetings media session because I'm not there but a few highlights from watching the live stream: Said Matt Skura is lead candidate to play center. Alex Lewis will return at LG; and James Hurst will go outside to RT.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiecsun) March 27, 2018
Matt Skura competing at center isn’t surprising, and the team may still look for outside help at the position to add further competition. Hurst however, who will be paid an average salary of $4.4 million that would be 25th among all active guards, will now move to a position he hasn’t played all that much.
Lewis played well at left guard in 2016, and oddly enough while he is versatile, he’s probably best suited at left guard instead of right tackle, even if that’s where the Ravens were going to originally put him at the start of last season. The Ravens apparent plan for the offensive line is interesting after the performance of Hurst and his contact. You would think Baltimore would want to keep him comfortable after his struggles at left tackle now that he’s found a home along the offensive line.
While Lewis can handle himself at left guard as he showed during his rookie campaign, the Ravens are still considering different players at different positions, even if Hurst and Lewis are versatile and familiar with the blocking scheme. You do have to wonder about the team’s constant flip-flopping on the offensive line that has been happening on a yearly basis, but you should be confident about Hurst and Lewis’s versatility. Which is what the Ravens see as an advantage.