PLEASE NOTE:The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
But as ridiculously easy as it is to make the case for trading Gaither, that bevy of arguments listed above can be offset by asking one simple question: Are the Ravens a better team with him gone? The answer is no. They're a better team in 2010, a much better team, with Gaither and Oher as bookends on their offensive line.
Gaither has been a solid left tackle, bordering on superior, from the moment he joined the starting lineup as a second-year player in 2008. Guys with his size and natural ability simply don't come along very often. He is a veritable mountain man at 6-9 and 340 pounds, yet he is nimble and agile, a handful for the league's defensive ends.
The Ravens have every right to pat themselves on the back for finding such a useful player with a relatively low pick in a supplemental draft, but they really should pat Gaither on the back. While questioning his dedication, they shouldn't forget that he is the one who turned himself into a quality NFL lineman with a huge upside.
If they unloaded him, would they replace him with similar size, athleticism and potential? No. Cousins is tenacious and could be fine, but he has started three games in his first two seasons. Gaither started 17 in his first two seasons.
The Ravens have upgraded their receiving corps, but their running game remains their offensive strength, and keeping Gaither would help ensure that remains so. Pass blocking is his specialty, but Ray Rice ran behind him plenty of times in 2009. When he returned from one of his injuries, quarterback Joe Flacco* *commented that it sure was nice to have him back.
Dealing Gaither would make more sense if the Ravens were angling to win a Super Bowl a few years from now, but with their offense on the upswing and the career clocks of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed possibly winding down, they're trying to win now. That's not the best time to peel a huge, young anchor off of their offensive line.
Yes, Gaither might have some maturing to do, but he is worth the trouble. He is a freak, a prodigy, a starter at Maryland when he was a freshman in 2005, a starter for the Ravens when he should have been a college senior in 2008. When word leaked out that the Ravens might be shopping him, a whole passel of teams expressed interest. That speaks volumes. He's valuable, already good but still a babe in football years, a guy who is going to get better… a keeper. And at the risk of sounding like Yogi Berra, you keep your keepers.