Ravens Expect Marshal Yanda Back in 2019 and Beyond
There's been plenty of speculation surrounding Marshal Yanda's playing future.
Yanda, who turns 35 in September, enters the final year of his current contract with the Ravens, but don't expect the seven-time Pro Bowler to hang up the cleats just yet.
At least that's the expectation around 1 Winning Drive.
General Manager Eric DeCosta made it clear at the Ravens' pre-draft presser on Tuesday that he wants Yanda around for the 2019 season and beyond.
"We love Marshal," DeCosta said. "We'd love to see Marshal continue to play for us for years. He's a great player that's still playing at a high level."
"My understanding is that Marshal Yanda is coming back and ready to roll," Harbaugh said. "That's where we left it at the end of the season. To my knowledge, nothing's changed on that."
The question keeps being asked, however, because the private Yanda hasn't come out and explicitly said himself whether he will play in 2019.
"Less than a month from the NFL draft, the Ravens have no definitive answer on whether Marshal Yanda is coming back," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer.
When it comes to consistency and dominance for an offensive lineman, Yanda is the gold standard. DeCosta said that if "you could define a Raven, you'd put a picture of Marshal Yanda up there."
It doesn't take much to notice the direct correlation between Yanda's presence and the Ravens' offensive success. Just ask running back Gus Edwards, who had the NFL's highest rushing grade on runs between the right guard and right tackle, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF).
"Yanda battled back from his 2017 ankle injury to log the most snaps among guards in the 2018 regular season at 1,162," wrote PFF, who ranked Yanda No. 99 on its top 101 players of 2018. "Including the postseason, he earned the fourth-highest overall grade among guards at 75.2, allowing just 15 total pressures and zero sacks."
As the Ravens plan to retool their offense and establish a strong run game under Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman, Yanda will be a centerpiece around the success.
Is Brent Urban's Return Looming?
The Ravens' desire to remain the NFL's top defense presents a difficult challenge. After losing notable pieces in free agency, there are obvious holes to fill.
Of the available free-agent players on the market, the Ravens could target one of their own. The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec pointed to defensive end Brent Urban.
"All the talk has been on the Ravens' need for an edge rusher, but there's a void with their interior pass rush as well," Zrebiec wrote. "The Ravens often used Za'Darius Smith to rush inside and he was successful winning matchings versus guards. Urban, a 16-game starter last year, also got some push inside."
It's been a relatively quiet offseason for Urban, which is surprising considering he was a full-time starter on the league's top defense.
He struggled with injuries to begin his career but quietly rebounded last season after signing a one-year, $1 million deal with the Ravens in 2018.
While Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce wreaked havoc on opposing offenses, Urban was regularly tasked with the unselfish work. Urban constantly commanded double teams and plugged gaps – things that won't show up in the final box score. He played the most snaps of any Ravens defensive lineman (522).
Luckily, it didn't go unnoticed.
As Zrebiec noted, players like Willie Henry, Chris Wormley, and Zach Sieler will be expected to step up in the rotation. Adding Urban would bolster the unit further.
While he wouldn't directly make up for the sack production lost, Urban creates opportunities for pass rushers. His length gives him a distinct advantage against blockers. That includes special teams.
Re-signing Urban wouldn't break the bank or count against the compensatory pick formula, but the Ravens will still be up against other teams who have more cap space. If the Ravens are interested, the feeling is mutual.
"I'd love to stay in Baltimore," Urban told GlennClark Radio in February. "I met my fiancée here, it's close to where I went to school -- so it's a place that's close to my heart and I'd love to stay, but I know how the business goes."
Is Pass Rusher Jachai Polite the Next Orlando Brown Jr.?
Every year, draft prospects move up and down draft boards throughout the offseason – some more than others. One player whose stock has fallen significantly is Florida edge rusher Jachai Polite.
For all intents and purposes, Polite has struggled throughout the pre-draft process.
Polite totaled 11 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in a breakout season for the Gators as a junior. That's an impressive feat playing in the SEC, one of college football's top conferences.
But Polite's 40-yard dash time (4.84 seconds) and vertical jump (32 inches) ranked towards the bottom in his positional group at the Combine.
Poor Combine and Pro Day performances, paired with reported difficulties during team interviews in Indy took a massive hit on Polite's stock in the eyes of draft analysts.
"The perceived pre-draft fall of Florida pass rusher Jachai Polite, once considered a likely early first-round pick, is starting to resemble the story of Orlando Brown Jr. last season," Zrebiec wrote.
Like Polite, Brown struggled during the pre-draft process but quickly silenced doubters. As a third-round pick, Brown started 10 games at right tackle during his rookie season with the Ravens without allowing a sack, according to PFF.
Testing results can draw a lot of buzz during this time of year but the tape never lies.
"I think it ultimately comes down to the film," Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz said yesterday when asked about Polite.
"The test and results are just that. The kid gets a chance, whether it's Jachai or any other player ... to do it again. You look at Orlando [Brown Jr.] last year, he tested poorly. He improved … in everything that he did and it certainly didn't affect his ability to play for us this year."
Hortiz isn't the only one not willing to write off Polite just yet. There's strong evidence to support that stance.
- In their latest mock drafts, ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay both project the Ravens to take a center in the first round.
- Speaking of the draft, could another high-profile Alabama prospect be heading to Baltimore this offseason? Mark Ingram sure hopes so.