Jared Gaither: Is He the Ravens Most Valuable Asset?

February 04, 2010 |

On July 12, 2007 Ozzie Newsome once again proved why he is one of, if not the best decision maker in the NFL.

It was on that date that the Ravens selected Maryland Terrapin’s tackle Jared Gaither in the fifth round of the NFL’s Supplemental Draft.

When the Ravens selected Gaither, they took a chance on a 21 year old, 6’9″ 340 lbs player with immense upside in talent, but also a player that had struggled to maintain the grades to play NCAA Football. Failling to reach the academic requirements of the NCAA resulted in his availability in the supplemental draft.

In only three seasons Gaither has transformed from a 21 year old prospect with raw physical talent, to a soon to be 24 year old NFL player that’s still a long ways away from reaching his potential, but NFL GM’s know that 6’9″ left tackles don’t grow on trees.  You’d have to look pretty far to find a NFL team that  wouldn’t love to have Jared Gaither to anchor the left side of their offensive line for the next decade. 

This off season the Ravens will have a difficult decision to make regarding Jared Gaither’s future in Baltimore.  Gaither will be a restricted free agent this spring and the Ravens number one “ace” in their pocket in what should be a very interesting off season.

Since we all can safely say that we have no idea what the future of the NFL holds regarding the owner’s and player’s work agreement, this upcoming off season can have major implications on the franchise’s success in the future.

The Ravens will have plenty of options with Jared Gaither in the next couple of months….

First of all, the Ravens can opt to re-sign Gaither and secure one of the league’s best tackle duo’s with the 24 year old Gaither and this past season’s first round draft pick Michael Oher.  Having two “blind side” worthy tackles is a rarity in the NFL, especially since left tackles are statistically the highest paid players on offense behind the team’s quarterback.  While it looks like 2010 will be a “capless” season, beyond that there is no guarantee what the future financial restrictions will be.  Assuming that the NFL will once again be a league with a salary cap, the Ravens might not be able to afford the luxury of resigning Gaither and thus will have to rely upon Oher as the future left tackle of the Baltimore Ravens.

If the Ravens do not plan on retaining Gaither, his value in the NFL may never be higher than on the trading block this off season.  There are several teams across the league that would love to acquire Jared Gaither’s services, especially since this upcoming draft is thin at the tackle position.

Lets quickly look across the league at some possible homes for Gaither if he is traded from Baltimore.

Arizona Cardinals:  They had O-line issues all season long and now with Warner retiring, the Cards will need to give Matt Leinart all the blocking they can find.  We all know that Anquan Boldin wants out of Arizona and clearly the Ravens need to find Joe Flacco some weapons.

Denver Broncos: They already have Ryan Clady, but I think he projects better as a right tackle in the future.  Obviously we know that Brandon Marshall’s days in Denver are running thin and again Marshall would instantly be a force for the Ravens at receiver.

Washington Redskins:  Their O-line was terrible last season.  They’ve neglected drafting the line for way to long and have been trying to find band-aids to protect their quarterback.  The future for Chris Samuels is in doubt and the team could look to use their fourth overall pick on a tackle like Russell Okung or Anthony Davis, but bringing in a day one starting left tackle, not to mention a former Terp in Gaither is definitely a Dan Snyder type move.  The ‘skins have never been shy about trading away draft picks, however they also have two very talented tight ends in Chris Cooley and Fred Jackson that could be apart of the trade package.  I think either one of them would look pretty good in purple.

Buffalo Bills:  The Bills traded away Jason Peters last season to the Philadelphia Eagles for a first round pick, yet have never filled Peters shoes at left tackle.  The Bills hired a new coach and are most likely looking to draft a new quarterback.  With change under way in Buffalo I could see the Bills packaging Lee Evans and pick to the Ravens for Gaither.

If the Ravens decide not to re-sign or trade Gaither, they could just simply allow him to leave with no compensation in return.  Knowing that the Ravens, a “final 8” team can only sign one free agent over $5.5 million within the current set of rules, the Ravens could be somewhat hand cuffed this off season in free agency.  Letting Gaither move on would allow the Ravens to sign a free agent of their own at up to the same size of the contract that Gaither signed elsewhere.  This option is also enticing for the Ravens because if Gaither was to leave Baltimore it would be for a big pay day, meaning the Ravens would have a big pot of money able to spend on one premier free agent (hello Vincent Jackson!!!).

No matter what Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens decide to do with Jared Gaither, the truth is whatever they decide will ultimately make the Ravens a better football team.

Who would have thought that the future of the Baltimore Ravens was greatly effected by a fifth round pick in 2007 NFL Supplemental Draft?

Re-sign Gaither or trade him?  What would you do if you were Ozzie?