Ravens front office reacts to missing the playoffs
Expect the Ravens offensive line to look quite different next season.
When asked about the team's biggest need coming off an 8-8 season, general manager Ozzie Newsome didn't hesitate: "We’ve got to get bigger in the interior of our offensive line," he said at the "State of the Ravens" news conference on Wednesday. Newsome also identified safety and a possession receiver as needs, but it was no accident that he began the discussion with the offensive line.
The Ravens offense ranked 29th this season. Their rushing average of 3.1 yards a carry ranked last, and Joe Flacco was sacked 48 times, tied for the fourth-highest in the league. The Ravens' calling card has long been physical, smash-mouth football, but too often they were pushed around up front this season. The Ravens' success on third- or fourth-and-1 (15-for-24, 62.5 percent) ranked near the bottom of the league.
After the Super Bowl season of 2012, Newsome identified the middle of the defense as the biggest need, and the Ravens went out and made several moves to address that. Expect the same this offseason with the offensive line.
Coach John Harbaugh hinted at as much in his news conference after the season finale, saying that “I think there will be a competitive situation pretty much at every spot on the offensive line except right guard," which is occupied by Pro Bowl veteran Marshal Yanda.
So consider Gino Gradkowski's hold on the center job tenuous at best. Ditto for left guard A.Q. Shipley, who was thrown into a starting role after Kelechi Osemele was sidelined by back surgery.
Both starting tackles, Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher, are set to become free agents, though it's expected the Ravens will work to bring back at least Monroe, whom they gave up two draft picks for in their first-ever in-season trade.
Osemele is expected to return healthy and could play at either left guard or right tackle; he spent time at each in 2012. At 6-foot-5 and 330 pounds, he is much bigger than Shipley (6-1, 309). Rookie Ryan Jensen (6-4, 318) didn't play a snap this season but could challenge for Gradkowski's job.
And as always, the Ravens will do their usual due diligence with the draft and the waiver wire to look for additional talent. The bottom line is Newsome said the offensive line needs help, so one way or the other, he will find it.