With Bryant McKinnie still adrift in free agency and the Ravens seemingly in no hurry to re-sign him, the Ravens appear to have a sizable hole at left tackle. One solution would be returning Michael Oher to left tackle, where he started all 16 games last season before McKinnie took over that spot in the playoffs.
But at the Ravens pre-draft news conference on Tuesday, general manager Ozzie Newsome suggested that second-year player Kelechi Osemele could be the front-runner for the left tackle job.
Newsome said that the Ravens have had dialogue with McKinnie's agent, Michael George, but nothing is expected to happen until at least after the draft.
Newsome said that, come Week 1, "Could (McKinnie) be our left tackle? He potentially could be. Could K.O. [Osemele] be our left tackle? He could potentially be our left tackle, too."
What was notable about Newsome's response was that Oher's name never came up. Oher started every game at left tackle last season but had his struggles against athletic edge rushers on Joe Flacco's blind side, and Newsome's comments strongly suggested that Oher will be staying on the right side of the line. Oher moved to right tackle once McKinnie was inserted into the starting lineup for the playoffs.
"If we had to line up today with the group that we have," Newsome said, "I think John told [owner] Steve Bisciotti that K.O. would probably get that opportunity (at left tackle).”
There are a few outstanding, potentially plug-and-play left tackle prospects in the draft, but they figure to be long gone by the time the Ravens pick at No. 32.
Osemele, a second-round draft pick out of Iowa State last year, showed his versatility on the line last season. He started all 16 games at right tackle, then moved over to left guard for the playoffs, a position he had not played all season, and handled the move very well. He started 38 games at left tackle at Iowa State, and the Ravens are confident he can fill that vital left tackle role in the NFL as well.
"He's done it,” Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. “He did it at Iowa State. He's played guard for us and played that well. He's played right tackle and played that well. We've seen him play left tackle well. He's a smart guy. He's motivated. He's got long arms. He's a good athlete. He can bend. All those things factor into the equation."