Once the market started to heat up, the Ravens pounced on their left tackle.
The Ravens reached a two-year agreement in principle with Bryant McKinnie Thursday afternoon, securing the left tackle that helped them pull off their Super Bowl run last season.
The deal is worth a maximum of $7 million, according to The Baltimore Sun. The team does not release contract details.
With McKinnie penciled in at left tackle, the Ravens will maintain most of their best offensive line combination from last year. Michael Oher can move to right tackle and Kelechi Osemele can stay at left guard. Marshal Yanda will start at right guard, and second-year Gino Gradkowski is currently the leading candidate to start at center.
McKinnie, 33, did not start any regular season games last year. But after getting healthy and into better shape, he was inserted into the starting lineup for the playoffs.
He neutralized talented pass rushers Dwight Freeney (Colts), Von Miller (Broncos) and Aldon Smith (49ers). Quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked just six times in the four playoff games. The Ravens averaged 31 points and 410.3 yards of offense per game.
McKinnie expressed over the offseason that he wanted to be a starter wherever he signed. He also wanted to be paid to protect Flacco's blindside after the Ravens handed the quarterback what was then the NFL's richest contract.
"They bought a Maserati, they need to pay for the insurance," McKinnie told the NFL Network earlier this offseason.
But the free-agent tackle market was slow to materialize, allowing the Ravens and other teams to wait until the draft to see whether they could fill their needs. However, the Ravens didn't select a college tackle until the fifth round when they took Wisconsin's Rick Wagner, who the team lists at guard.
That meant Osemele was still in line to be the team's starter on the left side. Osemele told reporters last month that he would be comfortable moving back to his college position at left tackle, but he preferred the idea of McKinnie coming back so he could play guard.
McKinnie started to draw more interest after the draft. This week, he visited the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers, who gave him a contract offer. The Dallas Cowboys also reportedly started to show interest.
But the Ravens stayed in contact with McKinnie throughout the process and made their move before he went elsewhere.
McKinnie struggled with injuries last year. He came to training camp late after falling down at his house, then he had to shed weight before even hitting the practice field. He suffered a hip flexor injury in Week 6 that lingered for a month.
Late in the season, McKinnie proved to Head Coach John Harbaugh that he was ready to practice well and ready to retake the starting role he had throughout the 2011 season.
Once he was inserted, the 6-foot-8 McKinnie showed his dominance. The 2009 Pro Bowler will now look to continue his strong play from the end of last season. He'll still have to win the job in training camp.
Oher took to Twitter to show his appreciation of McKinnie's return.