NFL Nation: Jah Reid


Another arrest, another black mark on the Baltimore Ravens' image.

The arrest of backup offensive lineman Jah Reid on two misdemeanor battery charges was the third involving a Ravens player in 22 days. That is nearly one per week since the middle of February.

Embarrassing? Without question. Have the Ravens become the NFL's bad boys again? You could make that argument.

All you have to do is bring up Ray Rice's TMZ video and the mug shots for Reid and wide receiver Deonte Thompson. Some will say it's unfair to put that label on the Ravens because two of the three players are backups and might not be on the team when the 2014 season kicks off. But the casual football fan will remember "three Ravens arrested in less than a month" and not the names of those players.

The Ravens have made significant strides to repair their image since the days of Ray Lewis pleading guilty to a obstruction of justice charge in a double murder and Jamal Lewis going to jail on a federal drug charge. I remember going to games in 2005 and seeing fans at opposing stadiums wearing orange jump suits with the name "Lewis" on back of them.

Coach John Harbaugh made it a focus to make over the Ravens' bad boy persona, even going as far as shelving the all-black uniforms to avoid "playing into everyone's stereotypical thinking." In Harbaugh's first six seasons, only four Ravens had been arrested. None were starters, and linebacker Rolando McClain was arrested before even putting on a Ravens uniform.

Even though there has been a spike in arrests, it's hard to blame Harbaugh, because he can't be following 53 players to Atlantic City or Florida. It's also difficult to blame the Ravens, because Rice, Thompson and Reid had never been arrested before in their NFL careers. It's not like you can accuse the Ravens of keeping repeat offenders.

But it's hard to alter the national perception when the headlines have been about another Ravens player arrested. Bad news is bad news. This was already going to be a challenging offseason for the Ravens, who were coming off their first non-winning season under Harbaugh. The Ravens have to rebuild their offense, part of their front seven on defense, and now their image.

The Ravens were atop the football world a year ago as Super Bowl champions. Now, it feels like their image is at the bottom of it.
NEW ORLEANS -- Safety Ed Reed and cornerback Cary Williams were the only Baltimore Ravens defenders to start every regular-season game for the AFC champions this season.

The NFC champion San Francisco 49ers had nine defenders start every game.

Overall, the 49ers had 17 players start 16 games during the regular season. Eight Ravens players started 16 games apiece.

Roster health won't grab headlines the way brotherly coaching rivalries will grab them at the Super Bowl this week, but we all know which subject matters more.

The Ravens have gotten healthier lately, welcoming back Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis to their defensive lineup. But in looking at injured reserve lists for each Super Bowl team, the 49ers come out OK.

Baltimore's IR list features top cornerback Lardarius Webb, inside linebacker Jameel McClain and guard Jah Reid, all starters. It features special-teams contributors LaQuan Williams and Bobby Rainey, plus lesser contributors such as Damien Berry, Emanuel Cook, Christian Thompson, Tommy Streeter and Anthony Levine.

The 49ers' IR list features starting receiver Mario Manningham, No. 2 running back Kendall Hunter, third/fourth receiver Kyle Williams, backup outside linebacker Parys Haralson and backup tight end Demarcus Dobbs.

Defensive lineman Justin Smith's ability to return from a triceps injury suffered in Week 15 has been key for the 49ers. Smith, Suggs and Lewis all returned from arm injuries that threatened to end their seasons.
Click here for the complete list of Baltimore Ravens roster moves.

Significant move: The Ravens surprisingly kept linebacker Sergio Kindle, their top draft pick in 2010, purely on his potential as a pass-rusher. Kindle's lasting impression from the preseason was a roughing-the-passer penalty in the finale that allowed the Rams to convert a third-and-22. Never showing any burst, Kindle didn't record a sack in the preseason and finished with four tackles. With Terrell Suggs out indefinitely with an Achilles injury, the Ravens probably don't want to part with anyone who can help pressure the quarterback. Kindle hasn't been the same player since falling down two stairs and fracturing his skull before his first training camp. On his reaction in making the team, Kindle said, "Jump for joy and do a back flip if I could. Wouldn’t want to land on my head though." ... Baltimore also released Curtis Painter and chose to go with Tyrod Taylor as its backup quarterback. Painter, who threw six touchdowns this preseason, threw countless interceptions in training camp.

Onward and upward: Undrafted safety Omar Brown is a likely target to return as a member of Baltimore's practice squad. He lacks ideal size for the position (5-foot-11, 195 pounds) but he has a knack for being around the ball. Brown had arguably the best preseason on the team, finishing third with 10 tackles, recording three fumble recoveries, intercepting one pass and recovering an onside kick. The Ravens need depth at safety because of the uncertainty surrounding Sean Considine, who has sustained two concussions in two weeks.

What's next: Don't be surprised if the Ravens look for an upgrade on the offensive line. Their depth at tackle is questionable with backups Jah Reid and Ramon Harewood. Reid has been limited all summer with a calf injury, and Harewood surprisingly made the team after spending the past two years on injured reserve. The Ravens also may look to add a defensive lineman. The team could move rookie defensive tackle DeAngelo Tyson, a seventh-round pick, to the practice squad.
Outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, the Ravens' top pick in the 2012 draft, has been placed on the non-football injury list, according to the Baltimore Sun.

This doesn't necessarily mean Upshaw is dealing with an injury. Players who fail the team's conditioning test, and coach John Harbaugh has a difficult one, are placed on the non-football injury list.

Upshaw, a second-round pick, is expected to take the place of Jarret Johnson in the starting lineup.

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who injured his Achilles tendon this offseason, was also placed on the non-football injury list.

The Ravens placed four players on the Physically Unable to Perform list to start camp: guard/tackle Kalechi Osemele (leg), offensive tackle Jah Reid (calf), defensive end Pernell McPhee (knee) and wide receiver/returner David Reed (knee). Players can be removed from the PUP at any point in camp. If a player remains on the list at the start of the regular season, he will miss at least the first six weeks of the season.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Ravens left tackle Bryant McKinnie was held out of this week’s mandatory minicamp “for conditioning purposes," coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday.

McKinnie
McKinnie
So, I asked Harbaugh on Thursday what McKinnie needs to show the Ravens to be on the field for the start of training camp in late July. His answer: You're not getting an answer.

“We will leave that between us," Harbaugh said. "That’s something that is an in-house type of thing right now."

Let's recap the happenings with McKinnie:
  • About 10 months ago, the Ravens signed McKinnie after he was released by the Minnesota Vikings for reportedly weighing 400 pounds.
  • Three months ago, Baltimore gave him a $500,000 roster bonus after team officials met with him about getting in better shape.
  • Two months ago, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said "all things are positive" with McKinnie after he attended some of the voluntary workouts.
  • One month ago, McKinnie said he's down to 358 pounds with a target goal of getting down to 345 pounds.
  • This week, he was held out for all three days of the team's final minicamp this offseason.

"Bryant has done a good job, he’s worked hard," Harbaugh said Thursday. "It’s not as simple as some of you guys want to make it. It’s just a situation where we are going to do what is best for the team, what is best for Bryant. We want him here; there’s no reason he wouldn’t be here. He has worked hard, so you try to do what’s most beneficial for every guy in every situation, and it’s always individualized.”

The key words to remember are: "We want him here." There has been speculation that the Ravens could go to Plan B on the offensive line, which means moving Michael Oher from right to left tackle and starting Jah Reid (who had an injury scare Thursday) at right tackle.

Stay tuned.
The addition of former Bengals guard Bobbie Williams reveals how desperate the Baltimore Ravens are at that position.

This shows a lack of confidence in rookie second-round pick Kelechi Osemele and Jah Reid, who were expected to compete for that starting spot. While Williams adds much-needed experience, I'm not sure if Baltimore really improved itself. The Ravens are still going to go from a Pro Bowl guard (Ben Grubbs) to one who will turn 36 in September and is coming off ankle surgery (Williams).

The best-case scenario is that Williams holds up like another former Bengals lineman did in 2008, when Willie Anderson started at right tackle for a Ravens team that went to the AFC Championship Game. But you have to have doubts because the Bengals, who were in desperate need of a guard this offseason, didn't try to keep Williams. Cincinnati signed Jacob Bell, who has since retired, as a backup over bringing back Williams.

“Bobbie is a guy who has been in the league for a long time,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said in a statement. “We’ve played against him, and we like his style of play and his demeanor as a person and as a player. We’re excited to have him as a member of our team.”

In nine games for the Bengals last season, Williams took a step back as a powerful run blocker but he graded out positively as a pass protector. Williams, who played right guard for the Bengals, might not technically be replacing Grubbs, who played on the left side. If the Ravens go with Williams at right guard, they would move Marshal Yanda to the left.

The Ravens potentially have one of the oldest lines in the league now. They might have three starters in their 30s: Williams, left tackle Bryant McKinnie (32) and center Matt Birk (35).

Baltimore tried to fill the void at left guard in free agency. The Ravens fell a few million short of re-signing Grubbs and couldn't lure Evan Mathis away from the Philadelphia Eagles. Baltimore is also limited in what moves it could make because of limited salary-cap room.

I thought the Ravens would look at former Browns guard Eric Steinbach, who missed all of last season with a back injury. The signing of Williams rules out that move.

Ravens: One big question

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Are the Baltimore Ravens set on the offensive line?

That remains to be seen. The other teams in the division improved their offensive lines in the draft. The Steelers got the top-rated guard (David DeCastro) in the first round, the Bengals added the best run-blocking guard (Kevin Zeitler) and the Browns grabbed the best right tackle prospect (Mitchell Schwartz). The Ravens bring back four starters from a line that got better as the season progressed, but there's been a significant downgrade at one spot.

At left guard, the Ravens are going from a Pro Bowl player in Ben Grubbs to a lineman who played tackle in college (either Jah Reid or Kelechi Osemele). By looking at Baltimore's moves, it doesn't seem like the Ravens are sold on Reid, a third-round pick in 2011, starting there. After failing to keep Grubbs (who signed with New Orleans in free agency), Baltimore tried to lure free agent Evan Mathis away from the Eagles and then used a second-round pick on Osemele. The Ravens have had only one rookie start a full season on the offensive line in the previous four seasons (Michael Oher in 2009).

There are other issues on the line beyond left guard. The Ravens need left tackle Bryant McKinnie to lose weight and cut his sacks allowed (he led the team with 8.5). They need right tackle Oher to reduce his penalties (four for false starts and five for holding). And they need Matt Birk, 36, to continue his streak of 96 straight games played. While the offseason focus will remain on the contract status of Joe Flacco and Ray Rice, the real storyline on offense entering the 2012 season is the state of Baltimore's line.
Gary Horton of Scouts Inc. broke down the top six needs remaining Insider for each of the AFC North teams. You'll need an Insider subscription to view the entire post, but here's a glimpse of the top three needs:

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Horton's top three needs: Cornerback, guard and safety.

Horton on cornerback: The starters in 2011 were Leon Hall, who will be coming off an Achilles injury, and 32-year-old Nate Clements. When Hall went down, Adam Jones filled in, but none of these three make you comfortable in man coverage. Newly acquired free agent Jason Allen will help, but there is a lot of work to be done here.

Hensley's comment: I wouldn't put cornerback as the top need because the Bengals added Allen and re-signed Jones. Allen is an upgrade over Kelly Jennings. Guard is the bigger concern. If the season started today, the Bengals' starting right guard would either be Otis Hudson, Clint Boling or Anthony Collins (who would shift over from tackle).

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Horton's top three needs: Quarterback, wide receiver and running back.

Horton on quarterback: Right now, their options at QB are starter Colt McCoy and veteran backup Seneca Wallace, but nobody expects it to stay that way. With two first-round draft picks, they will almost surely pick a QB with one of them.

Hensley's comment: You could make a strong argument that quarterback, wide receiver or running back should rank as the No. 1 need. My top need for Cleveland is right tackle. The Browns can at least start McCoy, Greg Little, Mohamed Massaquoi and Montario Hardesty at those other positions. Right tackle was a weak spot for the Browns last season with Tony Pashos and Artis Hicks, both of whom are now gone. The Browns' starting right tackle at this point is Oniel Cousins, a third-round bust from Baltimore.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Horton's three needs: Inside linebacker, left guard and safety.

Horton on inside linebacker: The Ray Lewis era will be ending soon, and the Ravens need to find his replacement. Jameel McClain was re-signed, and he can play inside or outside, but a three-down linebacker who can play solid pass defense is sorely needed.

Hensley's comment: Left guard is the biggest need on the team, and it's not even close. The Ravens couldn't keep Ben Grubbs and failed to sign Evan Mathis. The fallback option is Jah Reid, a backup offensive tackle last season. Going from a Pro Bowl guard (Grubbs) to a converted tackle (Reid) is a major step down.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Horton's top three needs: Offensive tackle/guard, nose tackle and running back.

Horton on offensive tackle/guard: Center Maurkice Pouncey is the only stable starter on this unit. Veteran tackle Max Starks is coming off an ACL injury and T Willie Colon can't stay healthy, though the coaches hope he can get through a full season at RT with young Marcus Gilbert moving from RT to LT. There is also a big hole at left guard. The Steelers need to get at least one, and maybe two, starters up front.

Hensley's comment: You can't really disagree with this assessment. Left guard Doug Legursky is a backup who performed admirably when Chris Kemoeatu was benched. Gilbert has a good chance of succeeding on the left side, but it's hard to depend on Colon at right tackle with his injury history. The Steelers' options are limited because there is no depth. Jonathan Scott, who has struggled mightily, is the top backup at tackle, and there's no reserves at guard with Trai Essex (free agent) and Jamon Meredith (not tendered as a restricted free agent) off on the roster.
Pernell McPhee, Jah Reid, Paul KrugerGetty ImagesThe Ravens will look for Pernell McPhee, Jah Reid and Paul Kruger to fill holes in the starting lineup.

No team has taken more hits than the Ravens since free agency began two weeks ago.

Baltimore watched a Pro Bowl offensive lineman (guard Ben Grubbs), perhaps their grittiest player on defense (linebacker Jarret Johnson), and an underrated role player (defensive end Cory Redding) go elsewhere and has yet to sign anyone to replace them.

There's no question that the Ravens are among the biggest losers after the first wave of free agency. But it's debatable how much ground the AFC North champions have lost to the Steelers, Bengals and Browns.

At this point in the offseason, the Ravens remain the team to beat in the division. I'm not saying that. The Ravens' history is.

There should be serious concerns about Baltimore's holes at left guard, outside linebacker and defensive end. There should be doubts whether Baltimore can reach the playoffs for a fifth straight season. The Ravens' rebuttal is, look at last year.

It was eight months ago when the Ravens entered training camp without the two leading receivers in franchise history (Derrick Mason and Todd Heap were released) and an eight-year starter at nose tackle (Kelly Gregg). Baltimore also went through the preseason with its two projected starting cornerbacks (Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr) sidelined by injuries.

The situation in 2011 was far more dire than the one facing the Ravens right now. Team officials, though, didn't share the panic of their fan base.

The Ravens are more like a college team than an NFL one in how they handle personnel. When they lose someone in free agency, they act like the player graduated and they plug in another one of general manager Ozzie Newsome's recruits, eh, I mean draft picks.

Rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith (second-round pick) replaced Mason. Second-year tight end Ed Dickson (third round) stepped in for Heap. Second-year nose tackle Terrence Cody (second round) moved into Gregg's spot. And Lardarius Webb (third round) and Cary Williams (signed off the Titans' practice squad) became the surprising starters at cornerback.

Before the 2010 season, you could have made a sound argument why the Ravens would miss the postseason. By the end of it, Baltimore was one pass away from advancing to the Super Bowl.

It certainly helped the Ravens in last year's playoffs that Peyton Manning didn't play and Ben Roethlisberger was banged up. Still, the Ravens swept the division and made it to the AFC Championship Game after making changes at eight starting spots.

There aren't as many questions as last year, but perhaps the question marks loom bigger.

They need Art Jones or Pernell McPhee to start at defensive end. Both exceeded expectations in backup roles, but can either one start?

"Those two guys are excited," coach John Harbaugh said. "They're disappointed to see Cory go. They learned so much from Cory. Cory was such a great mentor for those guys. I talked to Pernell on the phone and I've seen Art here twice in the last couple weeks. I could hear Pernell smile and I could see Art smile."

They need Paul Kruger to start at outside linebacker. Kruger made an impact in the pass rush, but is he strong enough to stop the run?

"When we lost Jarret, I went back and watched all of Paul’s tape," Harbaugh said. "I watched every one of his plays from last year, just to try and get a feel just for whether or not we’d be comfortable with him in there. He did a nice job in coverage, he set the edge well. Obviously, he’s a very good pass-rusher. I believe Paul can do it. I think he will do it."

[+] EnlargeBernard Pollard
David Butler II/US PresswireThe Ravens could still add veterans to the mix, like they did last season with Bernard Pollard.
They need Jah Reid to possibly start at left guard. Reid practiced at guard last year, but can the converted offensive tackle really make the switch?

"I would say right now, today, he’s the left guard," Harbaugh said. "He’s got to earn that spot but we’ll be continuing to look for players. Our goal would be to put the five best offensive linemen on the field. Jah, certainly, I’d like to see him be one of those guys, but it’s up to him to earn that spot.”

Honestly, I could see a couple of these situations not working out. The Ravens might end up really missing Grubbs and Johnson. But I also had my doubts that Torrey Smith and Cary Williams would work out as starters last season, too.

Like the Steelers, Packers and Giants, the Ravens are known for making more shrewd free-agent moves than splashy ones. Baltimore can still improve its team with late additions like they did with Bernard Pollard and Bryant McKinnie last season. The Ravens can also address some of these holes in the draft.

It's been a rough start to free agency for the Ravens. But they're used to it by now. They lose in March and win in January. Until that track record changes, it's tough to bet against them.

“Obviously, we’ve been very patient and we’ve been working, trying to do things that will put us in position to make our team better,” Harbaugh said. “I think we’re kind of methodical in our approach. We want to make smart decisions, we want to make wise decisions."
The AFC coaches met with the media today at the NFL owners meetings. Here are the top five issues addressed by Ravens coach John Harbaugh (via the Baltimore Sun) and my reaction:

On bringing in competition for kicker Billy Cundiff: “If we can get a kicker that is capable of competing with Billy, we’ll do it. Do you have to draft a guy? Is there a free agent? Is there a guy that will be on the street. That’s kind of hard to determine. We want competition for pretty much every position. I say that so I’m not ruling anything out, but Billy is our kicker." Hensley's reaction: The Ravens simply can't give the job back to Cundiff after he missed the game-tying field goal in the AFC Championship Game -- and missed it badly. His struggles go beyond hooking one critical kick. After a Pro Bowl season in 2010, Cundiff missed 10 field goal attempts in 2011, all of which came on the road. Harbaugh needs to bring in competition even if it's Shayne Graham again.

On the importance of upgrading the offensive line: “I think we have to upgrade the offensive line. I don’t even know if we have a full complement of linemen to be on our 53-man roster right now. We don’t have our five starters set. We have guys where [you say], ‘Can they play a position or not?’ We’re talking about Jah [Reid]. Can he play left guard? The thing I’ve learned over the years in Philadelphia and everywhere else, it starts with the offensive line on offense." Hensley's reaction: The left guard position is the biggest hole on the team. I still think they look to the draft to fill this spot and use Reid as a fallback option.

On whether Ray Rice will hold out to protest the franchise tag: "I don’t know what their strategy will be, if they feel like they even need a strategy. That kind of goes back to the agent more than the player. But Ray Rice is a man. He loves football. He wants to be in there with his teammates. I’m hoping he’ll be there from Day 1. I would expect him to be there from Day 1. But if he’s not, I’m not going to hold it against him as a coach. We just need the best Ray Rice that’s possible for the first game.” Hensley's reaction: Even if Rice holds out, there shouldn't be any concern about his conditioning. He's as dedicated to the weight room during the offseason as he is during the season. Rice will be ready for the season opener.

On linebacker Paul Kruger: “I think Paul is probably the leading candidate for the SAM linebacker job. I could very definitely see him doing that. When we lost Jarret [Johnson], I went back and watched all of Paul’s tape. I watched every one of his plays from last year, just to try and get a feel just for whether or not we’d be comfortable with him in there. He did a nice job in coverage, he set the edge well. Obviously, he’s a very good pass-rusher. I believe Paul can do it. I think he will do it. I talked to him on the phone. He’s committed to doing it. It means everything to him." Hensley's reaction: It's been a struggle for the Ravens to find a position for Kruger, who has bounced every year from linebacker to defensive end to linebacker again. I think he can handle the linebacker position on passing downs, whether it's rushing the passer or playing in coverage. His biggest challenge will be stopping the run.

On adding a kick returner: “We definitely think we could add a returner. Not to say that we don’t have guys in-house that could do it because we do. But we want to put some competition in there. We tried to do it in the offseason and it hasn’t worked out so far. We’ll keep trying and the draft is certainly a big part of that.” Hensley's reaction: The Ravens missed their opportunity when they let Ted Ginn Jr. leave without a contract, but they weren't the only ones (the Lions and Vikings did also). It seems like the Ravens aren't comfortable going with Lardarius Webb on punt returns and turnover-prone David Reed on kickoffs.
The Ravens' inability to sign free-agent guard Evan Mathis is another blow to the AFC North champions in the first week of free agency. Mathis passed on an offer made by the Ravens Friday and re-signed with the Eagles for a maximum of $31 million over five years (including $7 million guaranteed).

[+] EnlargeEvan Mathis
Howard Smith/US PresswireEvan Mathis was offered a contract by the Ravens, but he opted to re-sign with the Eagles.
Baltimore's first and best option was retaining Ben Grubbs, the second-best guard in free agency. But he signed with the New Orleans Saints for a five-year, $36 million deal that included a $10 million signing bonus -- a deal that was just slightly better than the one given to the Ravens' Marshal Yanda (which was what many presumed the Ravens offered).

The Ravens' second choice was going after Mathis, the third-best guard on the free-agent market. Baltimore officials flew him in for a visit and even took him out for dinner. In the end, it looks like Mathis wanted to return to the Eagles all along and was using the Ravens as a bargaining chip.

Now, left guard is the biggest hole on the Ravens team. The Ravens have options, but all of them are a clear downgrade from Grubbs and Mathis.

In terms of free agency, the Ravens could sign either a veteran cast-off like Eric Steinbach or Robert Gallery, or pursue someone younger like Chilo Rachal, who lost his starting job in San Francisco after a solid 2010 season. Another potential fit would be Kyle Kosier, who is reportedly getting cut by the Cowboys. Kosier is 33 and has had some injury issues, but he's been described as the leader of the Cowboys' offensive line.

As far as the draft, Baltimore can take Wisconsin's Peter Konz in the first round. He's the top-rated center coming out of college but he can play guard, too. This might be an opportunity for Konz to learn beside Matt Birk for a season or two before moving over to center.

If the Ravens want to promote from within, the talked-about scenario is switching tackle Jah Reid, a third-round pick last year, to guard. But this would represent the fall-back for Baltimore.
The Ravens lost free-agent guard Ben Grubbs, who signed a five-year $36 million deal with the New Orleans Saints that included a $10 million signing bonus (according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter).

Mathis
Mathis
That means Baltimore can't allow Eagles guard Evan Mathis to leave its team facility without a signed contract today. There are other guards available like Steve Hutchinson and Robert Gallery, but Mathis is the best immediate answer to losing Grubbs.

If the Ravens can't sign Mathis, there would be a major drop-off at the interior of the offensive line. Baltimore has other options, such as drafting Wisconsin center Peter Konz in the first round and playing him at guard for a season, or moving offensive tackle Jah Reid to left guard. But Mathis represents the best choice in terms of experience and powerful run blocking.

As far as Grubbs, it looks like a no-brainer for him to move on to the Saints. He signs a deal that is slightly better than the one signed last summer by the Ravens' Marshal Yanda (five years, $32.5 million with $10 million signing bonus) and joins another Super Bowl contender. It does make you wonder whether the Ravens, who attempted to keep Grubbs from becoming a free agent, offered him the same deal as Yanda. And, if the Ravens did make that offer, why didn't Grubbs take it?

The free-agent guard market could set up like dominoes this year. The Saints lose the best free-agent guard (Carl Nicks) and signed the second-best one (Grubbs). The Ravens lose the second-best one and now have the third-best inside their building.
I assumed, like many did, that guard Ben Grubbs was a certainty to leave the Ravens as a free agent. Not anymore.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh told a Baltimore radio station that the team will aggressively attempt to keep the 2007 first-round pick.

“We’ve offered -- I don’t know if we’ve offered it yet -- but we're in negotiations of offering a lot of money," Harbaugh said last night, via the Ravens' website. “We’re going to really make a run at Ben.”

This is both the most surprising and best move that the Ravens could make. I'm not a fan of putting a lot of money into one position, and the Ravens gave guard Marshal Yanda a five-year, $32.5 million deal seven months ago.

So, why should the Ravens give another guard a sizable contract? Look at the alternatives. There has been talk about the Ravens moving Jah Reid to Grubbs' left guard spot. Shifting a second-year backup tackle to fill the void of a Pro Bowl player is a major step down. If the Ravens look to free agency, they could end up with someone like an aging Bobbie Williams.

Grubbs
Grubbs
The only reason why this would be a bad move is if a Grubbs deal hampers what the Ravens can do in free agency. Baltimore can fill the starting spots of free-agent linebackers Jarret Johnson and Jameel McClain from within or the draft, but it should address wide receiver and backup running back in free agency.

The value of Grubbs increased significantly last season. When he missed six games with a toe injury, the Ravens offensive line struggled without him. Baltimore has seen what it's like to play without Grubbs, and it wasn't pretty.

When Harbaugh says the Ravens are offering "a lot of money," that offer had better match the one given to Yanda at the very minimum. There is no way that Grubbs will take anything less than what Yanda received, and that means an average of $6.5 million and a $10 million signing bonus.

Harbaugh said Grubbs and Yanda are as good a tandem as any in the NFL, and “we’re going to pay Ben as such.”

“He’ll just have to make a decision like all the guys do,” Harbaugh said. “You know, to do that now or to go ahead and take it out to free agency and take it out to the market and see if he can get even more than that. That’s a decision he’s going to have to make with his agent, but I know Ben wants to be here, he’s told me that numerous times.”

And, if Grubbs doesn't accept the Ravens' offer?

"Then we’re just going to have to move on and kind of rebuild the offensive line a little bit,” Harbaugh said. “But hopefully we’ll be able to deal with Ben.”
The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns will continue their preseason games Friday night. Baltimore will host the Kansas City Chiefs, while Cleveland hosts the Detroit Lions.

Here are a pair of storylines for each AFC North team:

Ravens
  • Will the Ravens improve the offense line? Baltimore allowed six sacks last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. Three were against starting tackles Michael Oher and Oniel Cousins. The Ravens moved Cousins to right guard and will start rookie Jah Reid at right tackle against Kansas City. Reid is a raw prospect trying to learn on the fly. We will find out where he stands in his first NFL start.
  • This game marks the Ravens debut of wide receiver Lee Evans. The veteran deep threat was acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Bills. Evans will be the starter opposite Anquan Boldin. Evans is the speedy receiver Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has lacked the past several years. The pair will look to build chemistry in this game.
Browns
  • Can Cleveland second-year quarterback Colt McCoy continue his momentum? McCoy had a near-perfect preseason debut last week against the Green Bay Packers. He was 9-of-10 for 135 yards and a touchdown. McCoy also led the offense to two touchdown drives. Detroit should offer a stern test. The Lions' defense looked stout in last week’s 34-3 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
  • Another fun matchup to watch will be Browns corner Joe Haden against Lions Pro Bowl receiver Calvin Johnson. Both are two of the best, young players at their respective positions. Johnson beat Bengals cornerback Leon Hall for a touchdown last week. Haden will try to prevent "Megatron" from having a big first half tonight.

Ravens back-to-work FYI

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Readiness factor: The Ravens don't have any major issues. The personnel and offensive and defensive schemes are pretty much the same, with the exception of new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano's adding some wrinkles. Baltimore's roster is already stacked, and the team will focus primarily on taking care of its own (Haloti Ngata, Marshal Yanda) in free agency before signing a few outside players. If the Ravens had to line up next week and play a game, they could.

Biggest challenge: The Ravens-Steelers rivalry is usually reserved for later in the season, but Baltimore will host a rare Week 1 showdown against its biggest rival -- and it comes after a lengthy lockout. Pittsburgh has won most of the key games in this series the past few years, including the past two playoff meetings. Pressure is mounting on the Ravens to start winning again in this rivalry, and they have to do it with little time to prepare for the Steelers this summer.

Competition at right tackle: Despite a veteran roster, Baltimore's right tackle spot is wide open. It was a revolving door last season and one of the major reasons the Ravens struggled with pass protection. This year Baltimore has a rookie draft pick (Jah Reid) and several holdovers (Oniel Cousins, Ramon Harewood) competing for a key spot. You also can't rule out adding another tackle to the mix in free agency.

Key players without contracts for 2011: Yanda, Baltimore's starting guard, is the biggest name without a contract. Yanda will test the market, but the Ravens also will make a strong push to re-sign the versatile lineman. Cornerbacks Chris Carr and Josh Wilson, who both started last season, also will garner interest. Look for the Ravens to bring back the cheaper of the two players, with rookie Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb and Domonique Foxworth listed as possible starters. Former starting left tackle Jared Gaither also is a free agent, and Baltimore is expected to part ways with him after a tumultuous and injury-filled 2010 season.

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