Ravens bolster offensive line by signing veteran Austin Howard

August 04, 2017 | Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens signed veteran offensive tackle Austin Howard to a three-year deal Friday in an effort to shore up an unsettled offensive line.

According to NFL Network, the sides agreed to a contract that will pay him $5.5 million in 2017 and up to $16 million over the duration of the contract.

The 30-year-old was released by the Oakland Raiders on July 28 as he was set to enter the fourth season of a five-year, $30 million contract. Howard started 39 games for Oakland over the last three seasons after starting all 32 contests for the New York Jets in 2012 and 2013. He dealt with a shoulder injury last season that limited him to 11 games and required offseason surgery.

A member of Baltimore’s practice squad in 2011, Howard is now expected to handle the starting right tackle job that was held by free-agent departure Rick Wagner over the previous three seasons. Howard ranked 52nd among qualified offensive tackles in Pro Football Focus’ grading system last year, but he finished a very respectable 13th in 2015. He has also played guard in his NFL after beginning his collegiate career as a tight end at Northern Iowa.

Howard’s 72 career starts make him the Ravens’ second-most experienced offensive lineman behind six-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda. Fourth-year lineman James Hurst had been working as the first-team right tackle in spring workouts and over the first week of training camp.

Already needing to replace Wagner as well as former starting center Jeremy Zuttah, the Ravens sustained two losses to their offensive line group in the first week of training camp with John Urschel’s surprising retirement on July 27 and the season-ending knee injury to rookie fourth-round pick Nico Siragusa earlier this week. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley, left guard Alex Lewis, and center Ryan Jensen have all missed practice time this week while Yanda continues to be brought back slowly from offseason shoulder surgery.

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg coached the 6-foot-7, 330-pound Howard with the Jets in 2013.

To make room for Howard on the 90-man preseason roster, the Ravens waived injured tight end Crockett Gillmore, who is in the final year of his rookie contract and would revert to injured reserve if unclaimed by another team. Gillmore is out for the season after undergoing knee surgery on Monday.