Ravens must avoid fool's gold free agent OL after surprise cut

Baltimore must be weary of how they build their offensive line.

Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers
Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

The Baltimore Ravens' offensive line is going to look much different in 2024, as Ronnie Stanley remains a cap casualty possibility while both starting guards from last year in John Simpson and Kevin Zeitler are free agents. The free agent market might end up being one way to beef up this unit.

The New York Jets are also trying their best to redo their offensive line, even going so far as to take the one player who wasn't beset by injuries last year in veteran guard Laken Tomlinson and sending him on his way.

Tomlinson was released by the Jets two years into his three-year deal to save some money, but New York also had a competitive reason for parting with the former Pro Bowl guard. Tomlinson may have a Pro Bowl to his name, but he didn't live up to the hype in his New York tenure.

Tomlinson's 2023 season was so tough that Simpson, who had issues with penalties and will likely never rise beyond the lofty heights of "decent" in the pros, would be a much better option for both the 2024 season and beyond. Eric DeCosta can't get fooled by his pedigree.

Baltimore Ravens must avoid Laken Tomlinson in free agency

Tomlinson has started 114 games in a row for the Lions, 49ers, and Jets, but durability is all he has to his name. Tomlinson allowed more pressures than any guard in the league last year, which was lethal next to the tackle who allowed the most sacks in Mekhi Becton.

While durability is an important asset, and playing on a much better offensive line in San Francisco led to better performances than what the Jets saw, Tomlinson wasn't exactly Randall McDaniel as a run-blocker last year. In Baltimore's scheme, that's a gigantic problem.

If the Ravens want to address the guard spot in free agency with non-Zeitler options. Jacksonville's Ezra Cleveland, Detroit's Jonah Jackson, and Miami's Robert Hunt all stand out as players who are fresh off more impressive seasons than what Tomlinson put on tape in New York.

Not signing a guard in free agency would be tough, but adding a player who is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career (if not the worst) and just turning 32 years old would be brutal. Not making free agency moves is a bad look, but so is handing out a bad contract to a declining player.