When you are Super Bowl Champions, it is hard to believe that there will be many areas to focus on in the offseason, but in today's NFL world with free agency and the salary cap, it is an unfortunate reality and the Baltimore Ravens will have several positions that they will need to improve and make tough decisions on. Heading into this offseason, Left Tackle will be the most important position for Baltimore to focus on.
There are several areas that the Ravens will need to address, inside linebacker, cornerback, and wide receiver, but left tackle is by far the most important for a number of reasons. First, and perhaps the most obvious, left tackle protects the soon to be much richer Joe Flacco's blind side and we saw in the playoffs just how good he can be when he has time to throw the ball where he wants to, so whomever is the left tackle will have to keep Flacco upright. Second, we have seen enough evidence that Michael Oher is not an NFL left tackle, and in turn, when he was moved to right tackle in the playoffs he seemed much more comfortable and performed very well, so he should not be an option at left tackle moving forward. Finally, with Bryant McKinnie being a free agent, who stepped into that left tackle position in the playoffs and did a fantastic job, there is no obvious incumbent for that left tackle spot and McKinnie may have played his way into being too expensive for Baltimore to keep and there has been somewhat of a rift between McKinnie and the Ravens since last offseason when they went back and forth between cutting him or having him restructure his contract for less money, so odds are Bryant will play somewhere else is 2013.
So what are the options for Baltimore at left tackle? Again, moving Oher back there should not be an option because of his ineffectiveness there over the past two seasons and his strong performance at right tackle in the playoffs. The Ravens will pick 32nd in the NFL Draft in April and the odds of a good, ready to step in immediately left tackle at #32 is highly unlikely, so Baltimore would have to trade up in order to find their answer in the draft. Lastly, Baltimore could hit the free agent market, but the issue becomes the cost that a top notch left tackle comes with and Baltimore has a very tight salary cap budget, thus getting a marquee left tackle may not be viable cost wise. McKinnie may be one of the more affordable quality left tackles, but again his relationship with the franchise is a hurdle, but to me the most intriguing name on the free agent market that may be affordable is Jake Long. Long has an awful 2012 season, which may bring his price tag down, and he has yet to play on a winning team as he has been in Miami, so he may give a slight discount to Baltimore knowing that they are perennial playoff contenders.
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