INDIANAPOLIS — Nestor Aparicio and I did a little bit of everything during our weekend at the NFL Scouting Combine.
We had fantastic sit downs with NFL coaches like the Bengals’ Marvin Lewis and the Falcons’ Mike Smith. We debated the merits of what’s next for the Ravens with top NFL analysts like CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora and NFL Network’s Albert Breer. We had private chats with Ravens executives, who stopped celebrating a Super Bowl XLVII victory awhile ago and are very hard at work in shaping the next Super Bowl team. We rubbed elbows (and I assure you I did so in the most insufferable way possible) with football royalty at Indy hotspots like the world famous St. Elmo steakhouse. We braved the throngs of reporters who wanted to talk to controversial future NFL players like former Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o and former LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu.
At the end of the weekend, I found one of my Baltimore Ravens-related opinions to have been solidified if not further strengthened.
The question of “what’s the most important thing the Ravens need to address this offseason?” is rhetorical. While Super Bowl MVP QB Joe Flacco is indeed an unrestricted free agent and in need of a contract, the Ravens aren’t debating the future of the QB position. They have their guy. Flacco will be under center (provided he’s healthy) when the Ravens open the season Thursday, September 5 at M&T Bank Stadium. They don’t need to address the QB position, they need to address the QB’s contract. It will either get done before next weekend and the Ravens won’t have to tag him or they’ll tag him and it will get done later in the offseason.
There isn’t actually a discussion about the future of the quarterback. The point is moot. Joe Flacco isn’t really the biggest issue for the Ravens this offseason because they already have an unequivocal answer at the position moving forward.
Therefore, when you ask the question there’s only one legitimate answer. The Baltimore Ravens MUST address left tackle before they do anything else this offseason.
There’s an odd roadmap to a bad scenario for the Ravens this offseason. LT Bryant McKinnie is an unrestricted free agent, coming off a turbulent season that included conditioning concerns, not showing up for Training Camp on time, having his salary cut right before the deadline to get a guaranteed contract, getting hurt but then ultimately being reinserted into the Offensive Line just in time to drastically change the trajectory of the Ravens’ O-Line and help lead the team to only their second Super Bowl title.
McKinnie has said he would like to return and has said that John Harbaugh told him after the Super Bowl he wanted him back. If the Ravens are indeed comfortable with McKinnie’s return and are able to work out the details financially, this scenario makes the most sense. It doesn’t address the position long term as McKinnie will turn 34 early in the season, but it goes a long way in establishing pass protection for a quarterback you’re investing an extraordinary amount of money in-and a quarterback that needs an amount of protection a bit different than your typical NFL quarterback.
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