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Saturday, May 28, 2022

Ravens to give offensive line a face-lift in 2022

This time last year the Baltimore Ravens were facing a decision regarding offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. who wanted to play left tackle. However, the franchise already had stalwart Ronnie Stanley entrenched at the position. Stanley had signed a five-year $98.75 million deal in 2020.

So Brown asked for a trade and the Ravens granted his wish. Brown was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs along with a 2021 second-round pick (58th overall) and a 2022 sixth-round pick in exchange for the 31st overall pick in 2021 draft, a 2021 third-round selection (94 overall), a 2022 fourth-round pick (either 136 or 144) and a 2022 fifth-round selection.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva signed a two-year $14 million contract to replace Brown at right tackle. The deal was one of the rare veteran free agents acquisitions that didn’t work out for Baltimore. Ravens GM Eric DeCosta will likely waive Villanueva and save $6 million in cap space.

As for Stanley, the veteran suffered an ankle injury in October that required surgery and ended his season.

“You get into training camp, and you think you’re going to have Ronnie [Stanley], and then the next thing you know, he’s out for another season,” Harbaugh said last month. “I’m confident and excited about the fact that those two guys [Stanley and tight end Nick Boyle] should be back full speed next year.”

“My understanding and belief was that Ronnie would come back this year [2021] and play really good football for us, be healthy, be strong and be ready to go, and he wasn’t,” DeCosta said. “That was a big setback, and I’m proud of the way the guys fought through. I’m proud of the fact that we could battle through that, losing one of your very, very best players, losing a significant amount of salary cap to an injury like that. 

“I can’t really comment on his rehab at this point, but I’m optimistic. I truly believe that Ronnie is going to be back this year and play good football, play winning football and become, again, the Ronnie Stanley that was an All-Pro left tackle. If he can do that, that will be a huge, huge advantage for us moving forward. That being said, one of, probably, the points of emphasis this year is the offensive line.”

DeCosta says the Ravens will likely add two or more offensive linemen. That may come by way of the draft and free agency. Additionally, DeCosta referenced some younger players that they have waiting and are very excited about. 

The interior part of the offensive line was dealt a tough blow before last seasons started when long-time All-Pro guard Marshall Yanda retired. Fortunately for Baltimore, they were able to sign veteran guard Kevin Zeitler who filled in admirably. 

“I think just in general, what we do know is for us to be the very best offense we can be, we have to have a strong, commanding offensive line that can control people at the point of attack,” DeCosta said. “I think that’s kind of what our mindset is; if we’re in the Draft and there’s a guy there at [Pick] 14 and we like him, we’ll take him. If we’re comfortable trading back to [Pick] 20 thinking a guy might be there and he’s an offensive lineman, then we’ll take him. If there happens to be a [salary] cap casualty on March 18th and that guy looks like he can make our team better, then we’ll probably try to swoop in. That’s basically our mindset. If a team calls us and offers a guy and we have the draft capital to make it happen, potentially that’s something that we might look at.”

The Combine will give the Ravens an opportunity to get a closer look at some of the offensive linemen prospects. A guy like Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning will likely be a target. Minnesota tackle Daniel Faalele is a massive 6-foot-8, 387-pound lineman that fits the Ravens run-heavy offense as well. 

Oklahoma guard Marquis Hayes is a punishing player on the inside that could help. Also, Iowa center Tyler Lindenbaum could be a home run of a pick in the first round. There’s plenty of talent to go around. The Ravens should be able to cash in. 

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