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Expect Big Changes Along Offensive Line

Posted Dec 31, 2013

The only certainty is that Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda will be back at right guard.

The play of the offensive line was a constant struggle for the Ravens this season.

From the start of his press conference Tuesday, Head Coach John Harbaugh pointed to the lack of a running game and poor protection for quarterback Joe Flacco as the team’s biggest issues this year. 

To fix the problems, Harbaugh said that the line could go through a significant makeover this offseason.

“Everything is going to be on the table,” Harbaugh.

Free agency will dictate some moves along the line, as left tackle Eugene Monroe and right tackle Michael Oher are both at the end of their contracts. Center Gino Gradkowski and left guard A.Q. Shipley are still under contract, but Harbaugh indicated that they will have competition for starting jobs next season.

Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda is the only definite starter. 

“I think there will be a competitive situation pretty much at every spot on the offensive line except right guard,” Harbaugh said.

The other player who will likely get a starting job is Kelechi Osemele, who started seven games at left guard this season before a back injury landed him on injured reserve. He had back surgery to repair the problem, and is expected to be at full strength by the time the team begins the voluntary offseason program.

Osemele has experience at left guard and right tackle, and the Ravens still haven’t decided what they want his long-term position to be.  

“He can play either one of those spots,” Harbaugh said. “I would assume that he will be in that lineup somewhere because he’s that kind of a player, but he’s got to come back and do it. Of course, he knows that.”

A top priority in the offseason is locking down a player at left tackle to protect Flacco’s blindside for years to come. The Ravens have been searching for a long-term solution at left tackle for several  years, and Monroe could be the answer.

The Ravens traded fourth-and fifth-round picks to get Monroe this year, and he played well after making the transition to Baltimore. He has expressed interest in remaining in Baltimore, and the interest between the two sides is mutual.

The key is agreeing on a price, as Monroe could be in line for a big payday on the open market.

“I don’t think there’s any question that people feel like Eugene Monroe is a long-term answer at left tackle,” Harbaugh said. “Everybody around the league feels that way, and he’s here, he likes it here. He did a heck of a job.

“So, whether we’re able to do that or not, I think that will be addressed over the next couple of weeks. Like I said, I want every good player here, and he’s a good player. So, I want him here.”

Once the Ravens determine who will be left tackle, they also have some young linemen who could factor into the competition next year. Jah Reid and Rick Wagner are both mid-round draft picks who played tackle in college and could end up getting the right tackle spot. Ryan Jensen was a sixth-round pick who spent this season on the 53-man roster, but was not active for any game. Jensen could compete for a job at center or guard.

Harbaugh also made it clear that the Ravens plan to bring in other players through the draft or free agency.

“Every one of our guys, all of us understand in this league that it is a production business – coaches and players. We all have to be accountable for producing and winning,” Harbaugh said. “What we will do is we will find a way to be the best possible offense, offensive line, defense, defensive line, special teams that we can possibly be. And personnel is a big part of that.

“The best guys deserve to play, and the guys who are the best guys are the guys who play the best. And we’ve got to find those guys, and they know that.”

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