At some level or another, every team in the AFC North is working on reconstructing their offensive line. Even the Cleveland Browns decided to release J.C. Tretter—who might look good in a Pittsburgh Steelers uniform, on an unrelated note—but everybody else has been more active, with both Pittsburgh and the Cincinnati Bengals signing two likely starters in free agency.
The Baltimore Ravens have added one, as well, presumed right tackle Morgan Moses, but they also had Alejandro Villanueva retire. Of greater concern is the fact that they lost Bradley Bozeman, their best interior offensive lineman since Marshal Yanda retired, who signed a one-year contract with the Carolina Panthers.
I haven’t seen numbers out there yet, but there were expectations he could command an eight-figure salary, which would be difficult for the Ravens to swing without restructuring deals. And that is even with the understanding that they lost out on bringing back Za’Darius Smith after reportedly agreeing to a four-year, $35 million deal that he changed his mind on. Still, the fact that he signed a one-year deal suggests he didn’t hit his target number.
So what is next for the Ravens at center? One possibility, as Ryan Mink suggested for the team’s website, is to move Patrick Mekari back to center. The veteran played more than 750 snaps at right tackle last season after Ronnie Stanley’s injury at left tackle pushed Villanueva back to his old position.
Mekari is not unfamiliar with the center position. He started seven games there in 2020, though he was benched at one point while struggling with his snaps. He also started seven games at center in 2019, his first season, so he has plenty of experience there.
The other internal option is Trystan Colon, who was a rookie in 2020, and was the center to start while Mekari was benched, though he himself ended up getting benched for performance reasons as well. Colon only played 121 snaps last season, making one start at center.
Of course, there are options in free agency. One avenue they may pursue is Trey Hopkins, the Bengals’ recently-released starter who is being replaced by free-agent addition Ted Karras. They could also consider another former Bengal, Billy Price.
And there’s a good chance that their top target in the draft could be Tyler Linderbaum, who is the consensus top center in this draft class. Baltimore holds the 14th overall pick in the first round, which should be early enough for them to land Linderbaum—they may even be able to trade back and still get him, something they very well may do.