The Baltimore Ravens pulled off the move of the decade when they managed to move up an astounding 12 spots in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft by trading center Jeremy Zuttah, who made the Pro Bowl in 2016 as an alternate, to the 49ers after previously leaking their intention to release him.
I say that with a not-so-thin veil of sarcasm related to the reputation of Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, who is annually exalted for any personnel move that he makes, whether or not it actually ends up working out. Managing to move up from the 198th pick in the draft to the 186th pick is better than not doing that when you weigh the consideration that it’s better than nothing, but it’s not exactly amazing either.
More notable is the fact that they are losing another starting lineman, and this a year after losing another one. Rick Wagner, their right tackle, left earlier in free agency this year, while Kelechi Osemele also cashed in big with the Raiders during the 2016 offseason.
That reflects a major departure along an offensive line who lacks stable parts outside of Marshal Yanda. Of course, they were able to find their left tackle of the future in the draft last year in Ronnie Stanley, who admittedly looks like a keeper, but there are a lot of questions to be answered and the internal solutions are not stellar.
Presumably currently in line to start in place of Wagner right now would be restricted free agent James Hurst, who has had several starting cameos in which he has looked less than stellar. He was benched in favor of moving Osemele from guard to tackle at the end of the 2015 season.
Interior options to replace Zuttah at center are likely to include John Urschel and Ryan Jensen, the latter being another restricted free agent. For as overrated as Zuttah might have been—see his Pro Bowl status, albeit as an alternate—neither of those would exactly constitute upgrades.
We have already seen with the Browns last season what could happen if you lose too many important cogs along your offensive line. We may be seeing that play out again this year both in Cincinnati and now in Baltimore as well.
Yanda and Stanley may be quality, Pro-Bowl-level talents, but you still need five offensive linemen, and I don’t think they have five worthy of starting currently on their roster.
Knowing the Ravens, however, one very likely route that they might take would be to pursue Nick Mangold, who is a street free agent after the Jets released him, meaning that signing him would not affect their compensatory picks for next season, for which they should get another rich haul.
What this really was, of course, was a salary dump for yet another overpriced signing relative to talent. The Ravens will saved nearly $6 million in cap space across the next two seasons with the move. The marginally higher draft pick was just a bonus.