Just a couple days after saying the Ravens were “very open” to bringing back Bryant McKinnie, head coach John Harbaugh reached out to the 33-year-old on Thursday to say he’d like him to return to Baltimore this season.
Whether it happens remains to be seen as the tackle said in a text message that the New Orleans Saints are showing the most interest in his services with their left tackle position currently unsettled following the free-agent departure of Jermon Bushrod, who signed with the Chicago Bears on the first day of free agency last week. Former Ravens guard Ben Grubbs signed a five-year, $36 million contract with the Saints last offseason after playing his final season in Baltimore next to McKinnie on the left side of the offensive line in 2011.
McKinnie said that Harbaugh was simply checking in with the 6-foot-8 offensive lineman but wanted him to know he wants him back with the Ravens, who have already lost center Matt Birk from their offensive line due to retirement. The Ravens haven’t had any contact with McKinnie’s agent Michael George.
“They have other things they are working on, so it’s no rush,” said McKinnie, who joked with Harbaugh to tell general manager Ozzie Newsome to pick up the phone. “We will see how things go.”
The Bears showed some interest in McKinnie prior to signing Bushrod away from the Saints. However, McKinnie might be the top left tackle remaining on the open market as teams are now focusing on the best right tackle options available such as Eric Winston, Sebastian Vollmer, and Andre Smith.
Many have regarded McKinnie as no more than a backup plan for the Ravens at this point as they could look to the draft to potentially find their left tackle of the future. However, Harbaugh told reporters at the league meetings in Phoenix that Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele would also be considered for the position if they do not add another veteran tackle.
The mention of Osemele’s candidacy for the left tackle position is intriguing after Brian Baldinger of the NFL Network mentioned on AM 1570 WNST earlier this week that new run-game coordinator and former Eagles offensive line coach Juan Castillo told him the second-year lineman might be a fit to play on the blind side.
“I think Juan is the single-best developer of talent on the offensive line in the entire league,” Baldinger said. “If Juan tells me he thinks that Kelechi Osemele can play left tackle, I want to see it. I want to see what he looks like if he lines up there.”
The 2012 second-round pick was a three-year starter at left tackle for Iowa State and split time between right tackle and left guard last season.