The Ravens trade for Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ center Jeremy Zuttah for a 2015 5th round draft pick upgrades the offensive line. With the struggles that Gino Gradkowski encountered last year, it was imperative that the Ravens upgrade the center position.
The question remains if this change will be enough of an upgrade to dramatically turnaround an offensive weakness, the offensive line, into a strength.
Zuttah, who has bounced between guard and center for the Buccaneers until last year when he settled in as their starting center, was the 22nd ranked center according to Pro Football Focus. However, if you remove one very poor showing against the Philadelphia Eagles, Zuttah pushes more to the middle of the pack in terms of PFF’s rankings. Regardless of how you interrupt Zuttah’s ranking, he is a major upgrade over Gradkowski who was dead last in PFF’s rankings.
Zuttah may be a better fit in the Ravens’ zone-blocking scheme than he was in former Buccaneer coach Greg Schiano’s smash-mouth running scheme. He is agile and quick, and his athleticism will serve him well in the zone-blocking scheme which allows players to move and redirect defenders. Zuttah has above average upper body strength, but he is not someone that will consistently knock a defender off the ball. Zuttah is simply bigger, stronger, and more agile than Gradkowski.
My main hesitancy in declaring this move a huge win for the Ravens is the fact that Zuttah is not an overwhelmingly powerful player. We have watched the Ravens struggle in 3rd and short for the last two, almost three, seasons. I don’t believe that Zuttah will dramatically fix this part of the equation. Will he be better than Gradkowski? Yes, he will. But for me, the evidence isn’t strong enough for me to be too confident that the Ravens will be able to slam the ball in from the two yard line when it is third and goal.
Then again, outside of Alex Mack, there were not many options on the free agent market that would have provided this confidence. It is my belief that Kelechi Osemele should stay at guard, as his power, along with Marshall Yanda’s, will help upgrade the overall strength of the interior line. A guard-center combination of Osemele and Zuttah is better than the A.Q. Shipley and Gradkowski combination we saw last year. In many ways, Osemele is just as important of an upgrade as Zuttah.
With the Ravens choices dwindling as the center market dried up in free agency (and a shallow pool of talent in the draft), this was a great move by general manager Ozzie Newsome in terms of value. The Ravens will almost certainly recoup a 5th round draft pick in the 2015 draft with compensatory picks—Arthur Jones, Corey Graham, and/or Michael Oher will certainly warrant a 5th rounder.
The Ravens’ overhaul on the offensive line continues, and they are still not finished. They need to decide on what position Osemele will play, left guard or right tackle. If Osemele settles in at guard, the Ravens could look to a free agent to fill the right tackle position, someone like Zach Strief. If they move Osemele to tackle the Ravens will need a guard, and someone like Travelle Wharton could be of value. Of course, the draft could also be a place to help fill either of these needs.
All told, with Eugene Monroe, Osemele, Yanda, and now Zuttah, the Ravens have a strong core of steady, but not spectacular, offensive linemen with depth in Gradkowski, Shipley, Ryan Jensen, and Ricky Wagner.
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An avid sports fan, and a passionate Ravens fan. However, I don't always wear the purple-shaded glasses.