The Baltimore Ravens have a strong preference for drafting their offensive linemen. Have you ever noticed that the Baltimore front office always picks one or two offensive linemen to stick around past their first contract, while they continue to draft at the position group?
The draft is the lifeblood of the offensive line. Eric DeCosta will make a signing when he has to. Adding Kevin Zeitler is an example of that. Still, he’s been with the Ravens longer than he was the general manager. DeCosta knows the standard operating procedure, he helped build it.
The Ravens drafted Orlando Brown Jr. in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. They started him later than they should have in his rookie year, but they figured it out. Then Brown Jr. was an essential starter at right tackle in 2019 and 2020. He wasn’t coming back to the Ravens in 2022, so the Ravens got something for it and can now replace him through the draft.
The Ravens showed with Brown Jr. that they can find starters for the offensive line past the first round. That being said the Ravens should prioritize their need for a tackle opposite of Ronnie Stanley. On the first night of the 2021 NFL Draft, Baltimore should select an offensive tackle.
A first-round pick gets a fifth-year option. That’s something that would have been nice to have with Orlando Brown Jr., who was a first-round talent who just fell down the board. The Ravens created another hole on their roster when they made the trade. This trade doesn’t work if the Ravens don’t at least draft part of the solution.
If the Ravens sign Alejandro Villanueva after the draft he’s a starting-caliber player. Drafting a tackle in the first round would create a competition for the right tackle spot. Nothing bad can come of that situation. Having three starting-caliber tackles is a good idea. Ronnie Stanley should be fine, but he’s coming off a season-ending injury. Depth doesn’t hurt.
With the fifth-year option for the young up and comer at right tackle, the Ravens can start a veteran (hopefully Villanueva) for a year. Then they can get four years out of their young tackle before they have to make a decision.
From a team-building standpoint, the best-case scenario is a first-round offensive tackle coming to Baltimore, with a Villaneuva signing to come after the draft. If the Ravens draft the correct right tackle they can justify starting him right away and looking for less costly depth behind him.
If the Ravens do this right they can get back to having bookend tackles that are a fundamental part of the offensive success in Baltimore. If they do this right, they can have a dominant offensive line. Remember that they already made a big upgrade at right guard by singing Kevin Zeitler.
The Bottom Line:
Trading away Orlando Brown Jr. was an opportunity the Ravens couldn’t pass up. Now they have to do something about the side effects of the trade. If the Ravens prioritize the tackle position and make use of their extra draft capital, the Brown Jr. trade costs them nothing. If the Ravens nail it in this draft the trade haul will pay for itself, essentially.
Getting the right offensive tackle puts the Ravens back on track to have a better offensive line in 2021. They have to start there. They can build a bright future on the offensive line.