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Ravens Insider: Ravens face important rebuild on offensive line, but how ‘remains to be seen’


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INDIANAPOLIS — Major change is coming in Baltimore.

Last season, the Ravens led the NFL in rushing, with their 2,661 yards on the ground 262 more than the next closest team, the Chicago Bears. They were pretty good when it came to protecting Lamar Jackson, too, with the offensive line allowing just 160 pressures of their $260 million quarterback, the fifth-fewest in the league during the regular season.

That Baltimore’s men in the trenches performed as well as they did spoke to several factors, including the emergence of second-year center and Pro Bowl selection Tyler Linderbaum, enough depth around him and the teaching of offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris, who in his more than four decades of coaching has been the professor behind some of the league’s best lines.

But replicating that kind of success in 2024 will perhaps be the Ravens’ biggest challenge.

For reasons ranging from free agency (guards Kevin Zeitler and John Simpson) to injuries, age and cost (tackles Ronnie Stanley and Morgan Moses), as many as four of Baltimore’s five starters up front could potentially be gone by next season. That would be a big blow for a group in which continuity is perhaps more important than any other.

And even if some of them are back — Zeitler at least seems unlikely after Baltimore did not extend his contract before it voided earlier this month — there are questions with, for now, not a lot of answers.

“We’ll always have a plan,” Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said from this week’s NFL scouting combine. “We’re aware of the injuries and the salary cap, and we’re aware of the talent that we have and the talent that’s available, and we’ll build the best offensive line that we can with the best players that we can.

“The roster is always going to morph and change year to year.”


But it helps when teams can keep the majority of their talent up front from year to year. That’s been the case for the Chiefs and 49ers over the past few seasons. Unsurprisingly, Kansas City won two titles, including this past season, and San Francisco appeared in one Super Bowl and two NFC championship games in that span.

The Ravens, meanwhile, will likely be in rebuilding mode.

Ravens offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley makes his way on to the field to warm up before Steelers game at M&T Bank Stadium.. (Kenneth K. Lam/Staff photo)
The Ravens could get salary cap relief by releasing left tackle Ronnie Stanley, but it would leave them vulnerable. (Kenneth K. Lam/Staff)

In addition to Zeitler and Simpson becoming free agents, DeCosta and coach John Harbaugh will have to figure out what to do about Stanley and Moses, both of whom struggled at times, perhaps because of injury, age or both. Rotating in Daniel Faalele and Patrick Pekari helped, but Stanley, who will turn 30 in March, and Moses, who will turn 33 next week, still missed four and three games, respectively, in the regular season. And when push came to shove in the playoffs, Jackson was sacked seven times and pressured on 16 occasions across two games.

Cutting both Stanley and Moses would be a boost to the salary cap-strapped Ravens, saving them roughly $15 million, but it also seems unlikely they would jettison both when they’re probably not bringing back at least one of their starting guards, too.

Of the two, Stanley would bring the most cap relief at $8.33 million, but given his role on the left side of the line in a division filled with elite pass rushers, his cost goes beyond money. Cutting Moses, a leader on and off the field who at times played through shoulder and biceps injuries last season and performed solidly, would save the team $5.5 million in cap space.

At guard, Zeitler, who will turn 34 next month, was hampered by hefty knee and quad injuries late in the season. By not extending him, the Ravens are already facing $4.27 million in dead money next season, so paying him on top of that would be prohibitive. Simpson, meanwhile, might be inexpensive, but he also had 11 penalties in 2023, tied for fourth-most in the NFL (although one fewer than Stanley).

The Ravens have some possible in-house options, including guard Andrew Voorhees, who fell to the seventh round after tearing his ACL at last year’s scouting combine. But there is anything but certainty on the line other than Linderbaum.

“The draft can help a lot,” coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday. “The offensive line is where it starts. We talked about that in 2008. It’s been true forever. You win in the trenches first. So we think we’re offensive-line centric in our philosophy. And we’ve got some question marks in our offensive line, so there’s going to be some rebuilding that’s going to have to be done in there, and we’re getting to it already.

“It’s going to be really probably the most important thing we do on offense.”

Especially when it comes to protecting their two-time NFL Most Valuable Player quarterback and clearing the way for a running back room that has its own set of questions with Justice Hill and Keaton Mitchell, who suffered a torn ACL late last season, the only backs signed.

“It’s always going to be a priority,” DeCosta said of the offensive line. “We have to have a big, strong, imposing offensive line.”

Baltimore’s first pick in April’s draft won’t come until No. 30 overall, but NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said he has at least 10 offensive linemen among his first tier.

While the top four tackles are expected to be gone by the time the Ravens draft at the end of the first round, there are other possibilities they could consider, including Oklahoma’s Tyler Guyton, Georgia’s Amarius Mims, Arizona’s Jordan Morgan and Washington’s Troy Fautanu.

“Tyler Guyton and Mims as these two big freaks, like just big physical, athletic kind of rare guys,” he said. “They’re a little bit raw, but there’s a huge upside there. If one of those guys were to fall to them, I think that would be a home run pick.”

But given all the moving parts on their current roster, the Ravens will have to go deeper than that when it comes to constructing their line for the future and even next season.

“We’re going to have, probably, some change on the offensive line in different ways,” DeCosta said. “It remains to be seen exactly what that looks like. We will have a plan.

“Fortunately, this is a deep draft class, as well, so we’ll have a lot of different options in different rounds, players that we like at the offensive line position — at tackle and also guard. … I think there is a lot of depth along the way, specifically at the tackle position and the guard position, so that’s exciting.”

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