After examining the available WR options in the past weeks (as seen HERE and HERE), it is time to look at other needs for the Ravens. The offensive line play was horrendous last season, needing upgrades along the entire unit. With the impending free agency of both starting tackles from 2013, Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher (as well as adding competition to Center with Gino Gradkowski), the Ravens will be active in adding pieces to help the run game and pass protection. This is a look at possible offensive line targets for the Ravens.
BRIAN DE LA PUENTE (C-New Orleans Saints)
The Saints are tightly up against the cap, while still trying to work out a long-term deal with superstar TE, Jimmy Graham. With that being said, they may have no option, but to let the three-year starter in the middle of their line walk away via free agency. Though New Orleans would prefer to keep stability in front of Drew Brees, many teams will line up to solidify the Center position for the next several seasons, likely pricing him out of their range.
De La Puente is a smart player, who has made the line calls for an extensive offensive playbook. He is not an overly powerful blocker, but uses athleticism and technique to get into the second level of defenses As a Saints Center, he has proven to utilize an unique ability to block in space, with the creative screens they deploy consistently.
Though he will be in high demand, De La Puente will not break the bank, as he is not considered one of the top free agents in this class. He will want to take advantage of his recent success though, after bouncing around on five different practice squads, until getting a starting opportunity. At 29, he is currently in his prime at Center, making this his real opportunity to find a long-term home.
RODGER SAFFOLD (OT-St. Louis Rams)
The Rams have made Saffold a top priority, before free agency begins next week. He was a valuable asset to St. Louis, as he has played both tackle positions in his first four seasons. There may be some contention in negotiations though, as the organization wishes him to take over duties at Guard, while he has stated in the past to play Tackle (and more specifically on the left side).
Saffold is a great athlete, with ideal size to handle the key blind side protection for Quarterbacks. He is built in the same mold of Texans LT (and former All-Pro), Duane Brown, with the ability to move defenders with his leverage. His major issue is injury concerns, as he only played in all 16 games once (during his rookie season).
At only 25, Saffold is still coming into his own as an offensive lineman, with plenty of room to grow upon an already solid start to his career. He could be a cheaper option than top tackle options in free agency (including Eugene Monroe), but has greater upside than most, as he probably has not hit his peak yet. With the positional contention with St. Louis, he will most likely test his options on the market.
BRANDEN ALBERT (OT-Kansas City Chiefs)
The Chiefs have an important decision with the former first round pick, who was a Pro-Bowler in 2013. He is another player that prefers to stick at LT, but Kansas City may be inclined to move last year’s top overall pick, Eric Fisher, into that role. If the two sides cannot agree on his future position, Albert will try to find a team willing to accommodate his demands.
He has experience playing in different style offenses, as the Chiefs switched over to a zone-blocking scheme under Andy Reid. Albert has progressed over his career, making him one of the top offensive lineman on the market. His good combination of size and speed fits well in the new breed of athletic tackles, that can attack defenders on the second level.
He is a young, still developing player at only 26, who will be a hot commodity for many tackle hungry teams. Though he will come in slightly cheaper than Eugene Monroe, it will take a big commitment from teams trying to lock down their blind-side for the next several years. He is from Maryland, which may (or may not) give the Ravens an advantage on bringing him closer to his family.