Matt Birk, the 14-year NFL veteran, signed a 3-year, $12 million with the Baltimore Ravens in 2009. Birk considered retiring after the 2011 season, and is again thinking about doing so after the Ravens ended their season one win shy of a Superbowl berth.
At 35 years old, and with a family of eight including a wife and six children ranging from 6 weeks to nine years old, Birk has plenty of reasons to hang up his cleats. Like most athletes though, the 2011 Walter Payton Man of the Year badly wants a shot at a Superbowl ring. Whether that desire will be enough to motivate Birk to come back for a 15th season remains to be seen.
Another important fact is that Birk's contract with the Ravens is up. Rumor has it that the Ravens would be willing to bring Birk back on a one-year deal, but at the Ravens end of the season press conference, general manager Ozzie Newsome addressed the center position: "I will say this: Before we line up and play in 2012, there will be another center on this football team in some capacity -- free agency, draft or whatever.”
If Birk ends up retiring, the Ravens will have plenty of options in the 2012 NFL Draft. Peter Konz, center from Wisconsin, has received consistent praise from scouts. In Mel Kiper's latest mock draft, he has the Ravens selecting Konz with the 29th pick in the first round. “Matt Birk will need a replacement at center, and Konz is the best one in the draft,” Kiper writes.
In addition to Konz, and a deep draft for linemen, the Ravens have Cecil Newton (brother of Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton) on the practice squad. Newton plays the center position.
The Ravens may also have to replace starting left guard Ben Grubbs, who seems unlikely to be resigned as the Ravens just rewarded right guard Marshal Yanda with a hefty contract extension.