After the departure of Ryan Jensen in free agency, the Ravens suddenly have a big hole to fill at the center position. Baltimore must find a quality center for the 2018 season.
Last year, the Ravens were extremely lucky with how Jensen excelled at center. Without Jensen’s emergence, Baltimore could have been in a bad situation. Other offseason center candidates, guards Alex Lewis and Nico Siragusa both suffered season-ending injuries. This left the Ravens with few options remaining at the position.
Lewis and Siragusa will both return in 2018, but Lewis has failed to stay healthy thus far in his career, and it’s unknown how Siragusa will return from his severe knee injury, in which he tore his ACL, MCL, and PCL. Guard Matt Skura is another candidate from last year who could be in line for the starting role. Skura replaced the injured Marshal Yanda at right guard in 2017, and performed admirably for the most part. It’s unclear how Skura would handle playing center though, as the position entails much more.
There are several mid-to-late round players in the NFL Draft who could be options for Baltimore to replace Jensen. Billy Price and James Daniels are the consensus top centers while others believe Frank Ragnow is flying under the radar as the best in the 2018 class. The Ravens would most likely take a center in round three or later, if they decide to draft one. It’s possible that Ragnow is available in the third for Baltimore, and he would be an enticing option. Will Clapp is a day three option to keep an eye on.
The importance of a quality center is being understated this offseason. Flashback to this time last year, when the Ravens were desperately searching for their answer at the position after cutting ties with Jerremy Zuttah. Zuttah’s last year in Baltimore was an unceremonious one. He was unable to handle bigger defensive linemen, and would be pushed back into quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco’s biggest weakness may be interior pressure.
Not only will Jensen be sorely missed in pass protection, but his run-blocking ability will be as well. Baltimore had a good running game in 2017, which was large in part to Jensen. Of all of the candidates currently on the roster, Lewis would probably be the best answer, but since he has failed to stay healthy, he would be a concern. Center is one of the last positions you want to rotate players in and out of, as it is often the leader of the offensive line with many responsibilities. Flacco needs to have a reliable guy he can trust to take snaps from as well.
While right tackle and tight end are bigger needs for the Ravens, center cannot be undervalued. Jensen played a huge role in the success of Baltimore’s patch-work line in 2017. Now it is time for someone new to step up, whether that be a player already on the roster, through the draft, or a future free agent.