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Offseason positional preview: Offensive line

Baltimore Ravens v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

One of the more well worn football cliches is that games are won in the trenches. Cliches are often repeated for a reason though, and that reason is that they’re usually true.

In this case, it definitely is, as the teams that are competitive year in and year out typically are strong along both lines. This of course includes the offensive line, a positional group we’ll be evaluating today for the Ravens.

Baltimore has a reputation for usually fielding a strong offensive line, something that was mostly true again in 2018. They have a nice mix of solid starters and promising rookies, as well as a perennial All-Pro at the guard position.

Let’s take a look at the overall offensive line outlook heading into 2019:

Current depth chart:

  • Left tackle: Ronnie Stanley (2019 cap hit = $6,517,744), James Hurst (2019 cap hit = $4,750,00), Jermaine Eleumenor (ERFA)
  • Left guard: Alex Lewis (2019 cap hit = $842,975), Bradley Bozeman (2019 cap hit = $599,602), Eleumenor
  • Center: Matt Skura (ERFA), Lewis, Bozeman
  • Right Guard: Marshal Yanda (2019 cap hit = $10,125,222), Bozeman, Eleumenor
  • Right Tackle: Orlando Brown Jr. (2019 cap hit = $843,430), Hurst, Eluemenor

Offseason outlook:

Starting from left to right, Stanley has had an interesting start to his career as Baltimore. He hasn’t quite turned into the dominant tackle the front office was expecting when they grabbed him at sixth overall in 2016, but he hasn’t been anything close to a bust either.

Rather, he’s a solid player, who interestingly enough graded out at #16 overall of Pro Football Focus’ tackle rankings, good for middle of the pack among league starters. He’ll certainly need to get a bit better but for now his performance has been adequate enough to keep around as a bookend on the blindside; whether he’ll be worth a massive extension next offseason is a different story at this point.

Behind him is swing tackle James Hurst who signed a pretty sizable deal to provide depth and versatility for Baltimore during the next several years. The results were somewhat mixed but the team is probably locked into him for the next few years and can at least count on his ability to play all along the line.

The outlook becomes a bit tricky when you begin to look at the left interior into the center position. Alex Lewis is a solid young player who has some versatility a-la Hurst, but has a concerning injury history; the Ravens can definitely do better but for now he’s a cheap solution who has at least proven he can play in this league.

Looking at the center position, the situation is even more murky. Matt Skura struggled mightily at times this season and graded out as PFF’s #25 starter this year; Eric DeCosta will almost definitely look for an upgrade this Spring.

At right guard is the aforementioned All-Pro Marshal Yanda, who will likely finish the last few years of his career in purple. His stellar play again this season should justify him sticking around, even at a relatively large cap hit for an interior lineman.

Next to him is the right tackle of the future and third round steal, Orlando Brown Jr. Brown entered the lineup halfway through the year and finished with the above average PFF grade of 65.1; Baltimore has to be thrilled that his subpar combine showing allowed them to nab him later than he should’ve gone.

There aren’t a ton of big names set to hit the market for this position group, as is usually the case with lineman. Having said that, look for DeCosta to potentially swing a trade or invest high draft capital into improving the interior of this unit.

Let us know how you expect the front office to address the o-line this offseason.