(Updated: Friday, 11:50 a.m.)
After receiving offers from the San Diego Chargers and the Miami Dolphins earlier this week, offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie has decided to stay put in Baltimore.
The Ravens announced a two-year agreement worth a reported maximum value of $7 million with the 33-year-old lineman, who spent the last two seasons in Baltimore and played exceptionally well at left tackle in the team’s march to their Super Bowl XLVII title. The possibility of McKinnie returning was always left on the table by general manager Ozzie Newsome, who likely wanted to see if the Ravens could secure their left tackle of the future in last weekend’s draft.
Instead, the Ravens failed to find a tackle in the first two days of the draft and were faced with the prospects of second-year lineman Kelechi Osemele lining up at left tackle this season after the 2012 second-round pick split time between right tackle and left guard in his rookie year. Head coach John Harbaugh will hope to see the healthy and motivated McKinnie who shut down such pass rushers as Dwight Freeney, Elvis Dumervil, and Aldon Smith in the postseason after the veteran served in a reserve role during the regular season.
Now, McKinnie wants to prove his postseason performance is what the Ravens can expect for the entire 2013 season.
“That is my goal coming into this season,” McKinnie told AM 1570 WNST on Friday morning. “Just picking up where I left off in the playoffs.”
Miami and San Diego hosted McKinnie on free-agent visits this week, prompting the Ravens to jump into the fray late in the process after keeping contact with the offensive tackle periodically during the offseason.
McKinnie expressed on several occasions that he was open to a return, but he wanted assurances that he would have the opportunity to compete to be the starting left tackle. With the interest from Miami and San Diego, one can assume the Ravens made it clear that the 2002 first-round pick would have nothing to worry about if he played at a level comparable to what they witnessed in January and February.
“I like [Baltimore] a lot,” McKinnie said. “I really wanted to be a part of the organization.”
In 2011, McKinnie started all 16 regular-season games for the Ravens and was the only starting offensive lineman not to miss a snap. However, his 2012 season was tumultuous to say the least as he was held out of organized team activities due to conditioning concerns and reported late to training camp after telling the Ravens he suffered a fall at his home in Florida. The unceremonious start led to Michael Oher replacing him at left tackle and Osemele starting at right tackle with McKinnie serving in a reserve role for the first time in his career.
A late-season conversation between McKinnie and Harbaugh in which the coach spelled out his expectations brought improved effort in practice that gave the Ravens more confidence that the 354-pound tackle could function in the no-huddle offense.
A toe injury to starting left guard Jah Reid in the regular-season finale helped facilitate McKinnie’s insertion into the starting lineup as the Baltimore offensive line did an exceptional job protecting quarterback Joe Flacco in four playoff games that culminated with the Ravens’ second NFL championship. With ample time in the pocket, Flacco became the second player in league history to throw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in a single postseason.
In his 11-year career, McKinnie has played in 164 career regular-season games (148 starts) and has also participated in 11 playoff contests, starting each one. His durability over the course of his career is a reason why McKinnie doesn’t understand the intense scrutiny he’s faced at different points during his career, which includes the stories of his financial problems off the field.
“What I do outside of football is my business,” McKinnie said. “As long as I’m prepared come training camp and game day, I don’t see the problem.”
With the news of the signing, the Ravens are projected to have a starting offensive line of McKinnie at left tackle, Osemele at left guard, second-year lineman Gino Gradkowski at center, Marshal Yanda at right guard, and Oher at right tackle. Gradkowski is expected to replace veteran Matt Birk, who retired this offseason after 15 NFL seasons split between Minnesota and Baltimore.
Listen to Bryant McKinnie’s conversation with Paul Mittermeier and Damon Yaffe on AM 1570 WNST.net right HERE.