The Baltimore Ravens appeared to have landed two starting offensive linemen in the 2016 NFL Draft when they selected left tackle Ronnie Stanley in the first round, followed by Alex Lewis in the fourth. Lewis ended up starting most of that season at left guard before suffering an injury. He continued to be a primary starter over the next two years, but injuries were a common occurrence.
Lewis spent this offseason healing from yet another injury. He had just passed his physical and was activated from the Physically Unable to Perform List. Then he announced yesterday morning on his own social media page that he was being released.
Between then and 4 PM, the time that transactions are made official, the New York Jets phoned up the Ravens. They didn’t want to risk failing to acquire the starting left guard via the waiver process, so they offered Baltimore a conditional seventh-round draft pick in order to get him.
Even though he was going to be released, it’s a trade that makes sense for the Jets. It’s low-risk with high upside, because at his best, Lewis has shown in the past that he is capable of performing at a starter level. And the Jets have issues along their offensive line.
The decision to part with Lewis came to many as a surprise, as the Ravens are holding a virtually open competition for the starting left guard position, and so far nobody has really stepped up and taken ownership of it, something that Head Coach John Harbaugh acknowledged.
“You want somebody to take the reins”, he told reporters recently about the rotation they are working with at left guard. “Now, if more guys take the reins and make it tough on us, that would be even better. But, we’re not there yet”.
So far, 2017 late-round pick Jermaine Eluemenor is listed on the team’s first depth chart as working with the starters, but that will be subject to change. Also in the running is James Hurst, a name many Steelers fans should know. Hurst is a veteran backup who has started many games, including at tackle. The other player in the running is rookie Ben Powers, who grew up a Steelers fan himself.
The rest of their offensive line appears to be in place. Marshal Yanda is of course a fixture, and they also signed him to a contract extension earlier this offseason. 2018 rookie Orlando Brown, Jr. was able to emerge as a starter last year, and Alex Skura is in line to resume his starting role at center from last season, replacing Ryan Jensen, who departed in free agency and for some absurd reason became (at the time) the highest-paid center in NFL history.