The Baltimore Ravens did quite a bit to address their defense this offseason, both in terms of retaining players and in acquiring new players, either through free agency or the draft. But many believe that they did not sufficiently address some important areas on the offensive side of the ball—most notably the offensive line, at least after they were able to add wide receiver Jeremy Maclin late in the proceedings.
As you might recall, the Ravens lost not one, but two starters along their offensive line from last season. Rick Wagner signed a big deal in free agency, but Baltimore also moved center Jeremy Zuttah with a late draft pick after it was revealed that they intended to release him in a salary dump. While he may have been earning more than they would have liked to pay, he was still a better option than they currently have on the roster.
And considering the fact that the offense was already behind the curve last season, the fact that Joe Flacco will in all likelihood be working behind a worse offensive line than he had already worked with last season is not something that any Ravens fan would want to hear—though it probably sounds pretty good for Steelers fans.
Currently, the most likely scenario to play out is that the Ravens will have some of their veteran reserves move up into the starting lineup. That is especially likely at right tackle, where veteran James Hurst, who is entering his fourth season and who has started 16 games at both tackle spots, has lined up throughout the offseason process so far.
He is clearly ahead of his contenders at this point, although that is not saying much if you recall what James Harrison once did to him. His competition is players like De’Ondre Wesley and Stephane Nembot, names that diehard Ravens fans might not even be familiar with.
When it comes to filling the void at center, there seems to be more competition, as it has been reported that the offseason reps have been split between fourth-year Ryan Jensen and John Urschel, who is also going into his fourth year, and the last season of his rookie deal.
Both of them have previously garnered starting experience as injury replacements (though I believe the latter has played more at center), and it was written on the team’s website that it does not appear that either have a clear advantage over the other.
Neither of them represents even a lateral move, however, from Zuttah, and that can certainly be said for Wagner to Hurst even more so. There is no getting around the fact that, even with a line that started two rookies in 2016, the Ravens’ offensive line will regress in 2017.
They did draft two linemen in the fourth and fifth rounds, but as of this moment it doesn’t appear that they are anticipated to develop quickly. It is still possible, as has been indicated in the recent past, that they could still add a veteran lineman. They could come after they get a look at what they have in training camp.