The Baltimore Ravens signed All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley to a massive contract extension in-season a couple of years ago that made him one of the highest-paid offensive linemen in the history of the NFL. A very short time later, he fractured and dislocated his left ankle, and he has still not properly recovered.
That injury occurred during the 2020 season, causing him to miss the final nine games of the regular season. He returned in 2021, but too early, having not properly healed, and only participated in one game before having a setback and needing to having another surgery to repair the damage.
That leaves the Ravens in an awkward position heading into this season, having also seen Alejandro Villanueva retire. General manager Eric DeCosta conceded yesterday during the team’s pre-draft press conference that they are “not sure” how Stanley is going to recover from this second surgery, and what his potential timetable for return would be.
And they are planning accordingly. Not only did they sign Ja’Wuan James last year, a veteran tackle who was injured at the time and whom they anticipated would be available in 2022, they also signed another veteran in free agency this year in Morgan Moses. But that doesn’t mean they’re settled.
“We feel that there’s an opportunity in the Draft to address the tackle spot at some point, whether it’s in the first round or in the fourth round”, DeCosta added. “There are good players all throughout this year; it’s a very, very deep position class. So, there are a lot of different ways for us to skin the cat, and we’ll do that at some point”.
Outside of Stanley, James, and Moses, the Ravens have some position-flexible options on the roster like Tyre Phillips and Patrick Mekari, though they probably aren’t the ones they want to go into the season starting with. Plus, Mekari might be their starting center at this point after losing Bradley Bozeman in free agency.
The sixth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Stanley was quick in establishing himself as one of the best young tackles in the league, even though he did not make the Pro Bowl or the first team All-Pro list until 2019.
Unfortunately, he has only played in seven games since then, with all but one game missed being due to that ankle injury that he suffered in week eight in 2020 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Baltimore clearly missed him—and Orlando Brown, whom they traded—last season.
Given that they have already essentially lost him two seasons in a row, it would be understandable if they take a cautious approach to the position. At worst, even if they draft a tackle in the first round, then they’ll just have better depth at a key position.