Ravens' Options, And Thinking, on Bolstering the Offensive Line

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The big "if" is whether Marshal Yanda will retire. The answer is expected to come soon, and it will shape a hefty chunk of their offseason strategy.

If Yanda gives it one more go, the Ravens will have a Pro Bowler, and potential future Hall of Famer, back anchoring the line and this all becomes moot – at least for the immediate future. If Yanda leaves, it opens a major question mark at right guard.

So what are the options if Yanda delivers unwanted news?

The tough part to swallow is that Yanda, 35, is still playing at an extremely high level. Regardless of how much resources the Ravens would use on finding his replacement, nobody would measure up.

The other difficulty is there aren't seemingly too many slam-dunk "replacements".

In-house, the Ravens could turn to Ben Powers, a fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma last year. Powers was inactive for much of his rookie season but looked good in his most extensive action in the regular-season finale against Pittsburgh. He received the highest grade of any Ravens player in that game from Pro Football Focus (PFF)

Bradley Bozeman, a fifth-round selection out of Alabama who hardly played his rookie year, stepped into the left guard spot with great success last season. They aren't the same player, but it's reasonable to think Powers could make the same Year 2 leap.

In free agency, New England's Joe Thuney leads a rather shallow pack. PFF graded him just below Yanda at No. 5 in the NFL, but that was at left guard and he'll be quite expensive. Washington's Brandon Scherff, who came out of Iowa like Yanda, is expected to be franchised.

Other options include center/guard Graham Glasgow, Greg Van Roten (coming off toe surgery), former first-round pick Andrus Peat, and Quinton Spain.

The Ravens could also look to invest a high draft pick into the position but, as opposed to previous years, there does not appear to be a top guard prospect who value matches with the 28th-overall pick.

Iowa's Tristan Warfs is the best of the bunch, though after blowing up the Combine, he's likely out of the Ravens' range. Michigan's Cesar Ruiz, a potential late first-round pick, was a college center. Moving to guard, or shifting somebody else there, would be an adjustment.

Some of the other top guard prospects are Wisconsin's Tyler Biadasz, Fresno State's Netane Muti and Georgia's Solomon Kindley, but all are likely Day 2 or 3 prospects. Of course, that still means they could make a quick impact, as the Ravens have a long history of finding offensive line gems later in the draft.

This year's class is generally regarded as being stacked with offensive tackles, and Director of Player Personnel Joe Hortiz said the Ravens will shop among the college tackles despite having Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. on the roster.

"Offensive line in general is pretty good. When you look at offensive linemen … if you remember, Marshal Yanda was a tackle in college," Hortiz said on "The Lounge" podcast. "So we don't necessarily look at guards and say, 'This guy is going to play guard for us.' We look at tackles too and think they might play guard for us."

The other question is what the Ravens will do at center. Matt Skura is coming off a major knee injury and hoping to be ready in time for the start of training camp. Will he be game ready in Week 1?

The Ravens were very happy with Patrick Mekhari, an undrafted rookie last year who stepped in for Skura. Mekhari finished the year with PFF's second-highest grade of any rookie offensive lineman.

Baltimore doesn't seem hard-pressed to find a center. If Mekhari has to start the season or more while Skura recovers, he's shown he's capable.

"I think Pat did a phenomenal job stepping in and played like an NFL starter. He did not play like a backup," Hortiz said, adding that the Ravens had him graded as a draftable player on their board.

"You're always looking at centers. That's a key position for your offense. We definitely focus on it, but probably not this year more than any other year."

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