The Baltimore Ravens already started the trimming process to get their 2023 roster down to the final 53 on Monday, when they made seven cuts and waived another with an injury settlement.
With 29 moves left to make before today’s deadline, one possible transaction they could consider trading third-year offensive lineman Ben Cleveland. Doing so would net them something in return instead of just losing a talented player for nothing is
Given their offensive line depth both on the interior and at tackle, recouping an asset in exchange for a player of surplus — who hasn’t quite panned out with them but could still thrive elsewhere — makes sense.
In the past two years, the Ravens were able to successfully trade 2020 fourth-round interior offensive lineman Ben Bredeson to the New York Giants ahead of the 2021 season. They attempted to do the same thing with 2020 third-rounder Tyre Phillips last year but were unable to find a trade partner, so they wound up releasing him and still ended up with the Giants.
Last Thursday, Head Coach John Harbaugh said that fifth-year veteran Sam Mustipher has “definitely put himself in the position to be a contributor” as the backup center behind 2022 first-round Tyler Linderbaum. Following Saturday’s preseason finale, he announced that fourth-year pro John Simpson will be the 2023 starter at left guard and rookie sixth-round rookie Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu “will contribute” to the team.
With those three linemen as locks to make the team, along with their projected starting five and versatile backups Patrick Mekari and second-year swing tackle Daniel Faalele, the Ravens are loaded and deep.
Cleveland was a third third-round pick in 2021 and has appeared in 21 career games and made five starts at guard. The team showcased his positional versatility for other teams to see on film by having him play extensively at both guard and right tackle. He possesses prototypical size, strength, and athleticism to play at either spot and just might be available on the trading block for a team looking to upgrade or reinforce depth.
Here are five teams that might be interested in making a deal with the Ravens to acquire Cleveland via trade in exchange for future capital or a player at a position of need.
What was once one of the most fearsome offensive line units is coming off a down year and will tasked with keeping rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson, the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft, upright. Their current starter at right guard is projected to be another third-year pro in Will Fries.
The 2022 Super Bowl runner-ups have arguably the best starting offensive line in the entire league, featuring a trio of Pro Bowlers in Lane Johnson at right tackle, Jason Kelce at center, and Landon Dickerson at left guard. The Eagles pride themselves on being deep in the trenches on both sides of the ball and being procurers of former standouts from the University of Georgia, of which Cleveland is an alumnus. They are also reportedly allowing former first-round edge defender Derek Barnett to gauge his trade market value, since they are loaded at his position and he’d like to find a place where he’d see the field more.
#Eagles DE Derek Barnett, through agent Drew Rosenhaus, is gauging the market for the potential to play more elsewhere, per sources. Philly plans to keep Barnett but understands a deep pass-rush roster limits playing time. The 2017 first-round pick should have trade value. pic.twitter.com/lq4KrNNFsC— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) August 28, 2023
With an injury-prone quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa and a loaded offensive skill position arsenal, solidifying the pass protection unit is paramount for Miami. With Cleveland’s experience playing left guard, he’d provide an immediate upgrade over projected starter Liam Eichenberg. Eichenberg was one of the lowest-graded interior offensive linemen in the entire league last year with a dreadful overall PFF grade of 39.8.
Since 2020 first-rounder Austin Jackson, their projected starting right tackle, has struggled with both consistency and durability in his career thus far, Cleveland would also provide them with better injury insurance. The Dolphins’ veteran backup, Cedric Ogbuehi, finished with a PFF grade of 47.7 in five starts with the New York Jets.
New York Jets
Staying on the topic of Gang Green, they could also use some reinforcements on the depth chart behind their starting offensive line both on the interior and at right tackle. 2020 first-rounder Mekhi Becton was recently named the starting right tackle but he has only played in 15 career games due to injuries. Similar to the Eagles’ affinity for former Georgia Bulldogs, the Jets have shown a strong liking to ex-Ravens that price themselves out in free agency, become available via trade, or are released by the team.
After trading up to the top of the 2023 draft to select Bryce Young No. 1 overall, protecting him needs to be Panthers’ top priority. However, based on all the pressure he faced during the preseason, it might be time to bring in some reinforcements — or at least a viable contingency plan at a couple of spots.
Cleveland would provide them with a more experienced alternative plan if the coaching staff isn’t 100 percent confident in rookie projected starter Chandler Zavala. He could also back up Tyler Moton at right tackle. If the Panthers were to trade for him, he’d be reunited with veteran center Bradley Bozeman, who he played with as a rookie in 2021.