Sunday, March 23, 2014
Ravens make key upgrade at center
By Jamison Hensley
The Baltimore Ravens weren't going to get back to the playoffs without fixing their offensive line, and the Ravens weren't going to get better on the line without upgrading at center.
This is why the Ravens' trade for Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Jeremy Zuttah on Sunday is so significant.
Zuttah, who turns 28 in June, isn't a Pro Bowl center and is coming off a below-average season. But what's important to the Ravens is that he's an upgrade over Gino Gradkowski, who struggled mightily in his first season as a starter.
At 6-foot-4, 308 pounds, Zuttah adds more size on the interior, which was a priority for the Ravens. Gradkowski got pushed around too often.
He brings more experience and stability than Gradkowski. In his six-year career, he has 76 starts including 32 the past two seasons.
Zuttah is also athletic and quick, which makes him a great fit for offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak's zone-blocking scheme.
This was a creative way for the Ravens to fix their dilemma on the offensive line.
General manager Ozzie Newsome wanted to get bigger on the interior of the line, but the free-agent class for centers was underwhelming. So, instead of overpaying for someone, the Ravens traded a mid-round pick for Zuttah.
The Ravens truly made the best of a bad situation. They could've paid more than they wanted for journeyman Brian de la Puente or gambled with a stopgap like banged-up David Baas. And it was unlikely that they were going to pry Alex Mack away from the Browns because of the transition tag.
Zuttah was the best possible option, which is why it cost the Ravens a draft pick.
The Ravens still need to make another move on the offensive line. They have to add either a left guard (which moves Kelechi Osemele to right tackle) or a right tackle (which allows Osemele to stay at left guard).
Still, the Ravens solidified themselves at left tackle by re-signing Eugene Monroe and improved themselves at center by trading for Zuttah. They're moving in the right direction.