The Ravens are optimistic Ronnie Stanley will be healthy in 2022, but they are still watching offensive tackles closely heading into the draft.
Stanley missed all but one game last season and is rehabbing from his latest ankle surgery. It's too early to know if the All-Pro left tackle will be ready by Week 1, and the Ravens could use more tackle depth even if Stanley is 100 percent by September.
Baltimore has already strengthened the tackle position by signing Morgan Moses during free agency, but Moses has spent his entire career at right tackle. Ja'Wuan James is expected to be ready to play next season after missing 2021 with a torn Achilles tendon, but he is also primarily a right tackle.
Patrick Mekari has played some left tackle, but he could be the starting center next season, and it's not clear who would be the backup left tackle to Stanley if the season began today. Alejandro Villanueva has retired after stepping in for Stanley last season, so as the Ravens prepare for the draft, versatile offensive tackles are clearly on their radar.
"The fact remains that we're not sure how Ronnie is going to rebound," General Manager Eric DeCosta said. "We're optimistic. I don't want to speak for Ronnie, and I wouldn't speak in specifics, but we feel like he's on a good pace to come back. In saying that, we brought in Morgan. We have Ja'Wuan on hand as well. 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. There are good players all throughout this year; it's a very, very deep position class. There are a lot of different ways for us to skin the cat, and we'll do that at some point."
The addition of Moses, coupled with the Ravens' draft position at No. 14, could lessen the likelihood they will draft an offensive tackle in the first round unless Evan Neal of Alabama fell out of the top 10, or Charles Cross of Mississippi State was still on the board. In his latest mock draft, ESPN's Todd McShay had Cross going No. 13 to the Texans, one spot ahead of the Ravens.
Another first-round offensive tackle who has been linked to the Ravens is Trevor Penning of Northern Iowa, who opened eyes during Senior Bowl week by manhandling defensive linemen with a nasty disposition.
"I don't see any reason why he (Penning) can't be a rookie starter," NFL Network’s Charles Davis said during the NFL Combine. "He's got good footwork. He plays with power. He's got an edge to him, a nastiness. It means something to him to try and dominate people."
However, if Stanley is healthy and Moses starts at right tackle, would the Ravens burn a first-round pick on a tackle who may not play much next season? The Ravens may choose to attack another position in Round 1, then use a Day 2 or Day 3 pick on an offensive tackle. Some possibilities include Daniel Faalele of Minnesota, Abraham Lucas of Washington State, Max Mitchell of Louisiana and Nicholas Petit-Frere of Ohio State.
"We try to protect ourselves as best as we can," DeCosta said. "One of the ways that we did that was with Morgan Moses. We knew we had Ja'Wuan James on the team. We feel good about Ja'Wuan, [and] we've been impressed with what we've seen so far.
"But we have to protect ourselves, and so, we'll continue to do that, and some of that will be through the draft, some of that will be free agency, some of that will be undrafted free agents, some of that will be in May and June. We're just trying to find the best players to fit our team, that fit our culture, coachable, smart, durable, tough guys. We want to try to collect as many of those guys as possible, so that when we do suffer injuries – and we know we will – we'll have enough guys to help us withstand that and help us win games."