I’m an advocate of sorts for offensive linemen. I believe that the best teams are built up front. Well, Baltimore could get a veteran offensive guard in recently released guard T.J. Lang.
You read the headline. You’ve read my other articles discussing the Ravens taking offensive lineman Cody Ford in the first round. We’ve even seen that my colleague Dustin Cox and I wrote about what would’ve been if Mike McGlinchey fell to Baltimore in the first round in last year’s NFL Draft. In this case, Lang could be the player that allows a smooth transition towards the Ravens’ future along the offensive line.
Lang, 31, was released by the Detroit Lions on Friday — creating $9 million in cap space. He expressed that he’d like to stay with the Lions at a reduced rate next season. However, a deal couldn’t be made.
“We would like to personally thank T.J. Lang for his two seasons with the Lions,” general manager Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia said in a joint statement released by the team. “He represented everything you could want from a football player and team captain. We wish T.J. and his family all the best in the future.”
He had one of his best seasons in 2017, starting 13 games, being penalized seven times and giving up just one sack. The then 30-year old missed three games due to concussion, ankle and back injuries. Unfortunately for Lang, he had his sixth documented concussion in 2018 and missed the remainder of the season after only participating in six games.
Though Lang may contemplate retirement, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press — his ability is a shot in the arm at guard. The positive situation at hand for the Ravens is that Marshal Yanda could also play left guard — Lang is usually a right guard. Two decorated veterans on the interior of the offensive line could surely assist a young quarterback in Lamar Jackson.
“I would be open to playing next year,” Lang said, via Birkett. “I don’t care what anything else looks like, if I get another chance to be on this team, then that would be a great opportunity for myself.”
Lang graded out at 72.0 by Pro Football Focus in 2018, which is an above average grade. Though the grade is favorable towards the guard — many of his grades from the site have been that way — he still isn’t a big fan of PFF. His grade would be an improvement over the likes of James Hurst (56.5 grade, average) and Alex Lewis (49.3, below average). Lang also scored higher than center Matt Skura, who graded out at 58.6 (average).
The other boost that this would give is to Baltimore’s young offensive lineman. Though Yanda is also in the waning years of his career, the two could give players like Orlando Brown Jr., Bradley Bozeman, Greg Senat and potential draftees tips of the trade.
If Baltimore decided to stick him at left guard, he’d immediately be option number one if they were to bring him in today. Lang’s signing could also provide depth if he were to get beaten out in camp and it won’t cost the team much, considering that he was willing to take a pay cut for the Lions.
For all camps involved, this move would make a lot of sense. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh places an immense amount of trust in his veteran players. With Baltimore set to possibly loose C.J. Mosley and Terrell Suggs in free agency and having already released veterans Michael Crabtree and Eric Weddle, the team could use an influx of new veteran leadership.
Ultimately, this move doesn’t mean that they still won’t draft an offensive lineman earlier on in the draft. There are a few offensive linemen other than just Ford that are attractive in the fiirst round — Alabama’s Jonah Williams, Florida’s Jawaan Taylor, Washington State’s Andre Dillard, Kansas State’s Dalton Risner, NC State’s Garrett Bradbury — each player could be supplemented by the signing of Lang.
If Baltimore wants to go in a direction of adding powerful, physical offensive linemen to their roster and still continue to groom young talent for a power running scheme, Lang is their guy.