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With the wealth of free agents up for new contracts, the Baltimore Ravens simply could not retain starting center Jason Brown, who signed with the St. Louis Rams. He will be missed.
While Ozzie Newsome is one of the top personnel men in the NFL and surely will add someone to the Ravens' offensive line mix, right now there should be reason for concern up the middle. Baltimore boasted the most powerful straight-ahead running game in the league last season. The Ravens came off the ball with huge personnel and moved the men in front of them off the line of scrimmage, usually handing the ball to rugged fullback-turned-ball carrier Le'Ron McClain.
This was a tremendous crutch for Joe Flacco to lean on during his rookie maturation and should not be overlooked as a huge reason for Baltimore's 2008 success. And Brown had a lot to do with that success.
Chris Chester is in line to replace Brown. Chester is a very good athlete with quickness and the ability to hit moving targets on the second level, but he isn't very powerful and is nowhere near as stout, strong or massive as the 320-pound Brown. Of course, the Ravens play in the physical AFC North, and Chester is now slated to do battle with NTs Casey Hampton and Shaun Rogers four times a year. Even the Bengals will utilize some 3-4 fronts with fireplug Domata Peko manning the nose. Moving these massive people off the ball in the running game now will prove far more challenging, and guard help will be required if Chester is doing the snapping.
The loss of Brown has a chance to really hamper Baltimore's offensive identity. But Ravens fans can take solace in the fact that Newsome is tremendous at his job and this is also an extremely strong draft at the center position.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.