With Cory Redding and Jarret Johnson signing contracts elsewhere on Wednesday, the next potential departure from the Ravens could be even more painful in left guard Ben Grubbs.
The Pro Bowl lineman visited with New Orleans and took a physical on the second day of free agency. With former Saints left guard Carl Nicks signing a reported five-year, $47.5 million deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that includes $31 million guaranteed, it could signal the end of the Ravens’ chances of retaining Grubbs.
Nicks’ departure from the Saints opens up a void on the New Orleans offensive line and also shifts Grubbs to the top of the list of available interior linemen. It was already expected that Grubbs would have to take less money in order to remain in Baltimore, but the benchmark set by Nicks’ contract dwarfs any potential offer made by the Ravens.
A number of teams are reportedly in the market for a guard including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Cleveland, so there is likely a suitor to meet agent Pat Dye’s demands for his client.
Not waiting idly for Grubbs to make a decision, general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens will welcome free-agent guard Evan Mathis to town for a visit. The 30-year-old spent the 2011 season with the Philadelphia Eagles after three seasons with Cincinnati, making him quite familiar with the AFC North.
“I got to see it for myself for a couple years,” Mathis said on AM 1570 WNST on Wednesday. “It was always a challenge playing teams like the Ravens and the Steelers with those really stout [defenses]. It’d be cool to be a part of again. I want to be on a good team and I want to have a chance to compete. I’m a competitor. I want to win a Super Bowl, and I want to play for an organization that has that chance.”
Mathis became a full-time starter for the first time last season after spending his first six seasons primarily as a backup, but he graded out favorably with the Eagles, rating as the best left guard in the NFL in ProFootballFocus.com’s grading system. The 6-foot-5, 302-pound lineman is considered by most as one of the better guards on the open market.
Though older and with less upside than Grubbs, Mathis would represent a solid replacement at a more reasonable cost. A product of the University of Alabama, Mathis was a teammate to Johnson, who signed a four-year contract with the San Diego Chargers on Wednesday.
That means Newsome — also an Alabama alum — is very familiar with the veteran guard.
“I would love to play for a guy like Ozzie,” said Mathis, who revealed Newsome is a family friend. “If I didn’t want to play for him, I wouldn’t be taking the visit. I like what the Ravens do and I like what Ozzie has always done, so I’m taking this visit and seeing how things play out.”
Multiple reports say the Ravens also have interest in former Texans right tackle Eric Winston and will welcome him to Owings Mills for a visit. The 28-year-old Winston was surprisingly cut earlier this week after six seasons in Houston.
Putting aside the price tag that the talented Winston would demand, his potential addition is an interesting notion considering current right tackle Michael Oher has two years remaining on the original five-year deal he signed as a rookie.
The Ravens seemingly signaled they didn’t think Oher was cut out for the left tackle position by signing veteran Bryant McKinnie last August, so it’s difficult envisioning Oher moving back to the left side. For what it’s worth, Oher played guard in his first season at Ole Miss, but it’s unclear whether the Ravens would consider moving the 2009 first-round pick to the interior line.
McKinnie has one year remaining on his current contract.
To hear Mathis’ full interview with WNST.net’s Glenn Clark on Wednesday afternoon, click HERE.