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Kelechi Osemele Has An Ax To Grind In Return To Baltimore


Usually when a former Raven returns to Baltimore for the first time, it's like a homecoming celebration. They speak glowingly about the years they spent with the organization and the friends they made.

That isn't the case with former left guard/tackle Kelechi Osemele, who signed a massive five-year, $58.5 million deal with the Oakland Raiders this offseason.

Osemele's so fired up to face his former team that Raiders coaches have already talked to him about keeping his emotions in check.

"It's not just another game," Osemele told Ravens reporters Wednesday. "Obviously things didn't go the way I wanted it to, and I ended up leaving. It's going to be an emotional game."

Osemele is still emotional about the Ravens' contract offer to him this past offseason. The two sides wanted to stay together, and Osemele said he had positive conversations with General Manager Ozzie Newsome about that possibility before last season ended.

But the Ravens committed to right guard Marshal Yanda, and they didn't have enough room for the kind of deal Osemele was going to command. The Ravens also had additional needs to address, and signed safety Eric Weddle, wide receiver Mike Wallace, tight end Benjamin Watson and others.

It became especially clear that the Ravens couldn't keep Osemele when the Raiders came in with a huge number on the first day of free agency. At $11.7 million per year and $25.4 million guaranteed, Osemele is the highest-paid guard in the league.

In March, Head Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens offered Osemele $8.5 million, which would have made him the highest-paid guard in football at the time.

"Honestly, we didn't get close at all," Osemele said of contract negotiations with the Ravens. "I wasn't really offered much at all. Some of the things that were being brought back to me were borderline … they can hurt your feelings sometimes."

Before the Raiders' offer, Osemele said he knew he would be heading elsewhere. He had spoken with other former Ravens that left in free agency, including wide receiver Torrey Smith. Osemele said even some people in the organization showed him the writing on the wall.

"It's something that does happen with that organization because they're able to find so many good players," Osemele said. "I was very prepared for it."

Even though he saw a move coming, Osemele still seems bothered. When he signed with the Raiders, he said he was "coming from a place where [the offensive line is] not really appreciated."

"That, in particular, had to do with an individual in the organization that I didn't quite gel with and had issues with," Osemele explained Wednesday. "That wasn't the organization as a whole. That was one coach in particular."

From the sounds of it, Osemele may also have some beef with some of his former teammates on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

"There are a few guys, obviously, that it's going to be fun to finish through and play against in the game when you couldn't really finish through and pancake your own teammates [in practice]," Osemele said. "To go out there and talk a little trash and compete against those guys is going to be fun."

Who is Osemele talking about?

"You'll see on Sunday," he said.

Osemele is known for playing hard to (and sometimes through) the whistle. He's a strong, 6-foot-5, 330-pound mauler that gave the Ravens offensive line a nasty edge from 2012 to 2015.

He has already made a difference in Oakland. The Raiders had the No. 29-ranked rushing attack last year, but currently sit at No. 2 with 148.3 yards per game. Oakland has allowed just two sacks.

"I'm looking forward to it," defensive end Lawrence Guy said. "We were always competitive in practice and he's a great player. … You know what you're going to get out of him. You're going to have to match physicality with physicality and go right to the whistle with him. You have to play his game."

It's not all negative with Osemele. He said plans to have dinner with Ravens center Jeremy Zuttah before the game, and spoke fondly of winning a Super Bowl as a rookie and the city itself.

"I love the city and I love the organization and I believe in what they do for the community and what they represent," Osemele said. "But I'm somewhere else now. I'm 100 percent all-in with the Raiders organization and we're going to go there Sunday and put on a good performance."

Harbaugh said he couldn't adequately sum up what Osemele meant to the Ravens.

"I have a lot of respect for 'K.O,'" Harbaugh said. "He was one of my favorite players in the draft, I can tell you that. When he came out, I really wanted him here and he did not disappoint. He brought to the table all of the things that we like to see in our players and our offensive linemen. I'm happy for him that he was able to do so well for his family."

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