It all started, as much does these days in the NFL, with a tweet:
McKinnie was set, prior to Monday, to earn $3.2 million (plus a $500,000 roster bonus he was awarded in March), but the Ravens wanted to cut that number in half to $1.6 million.
Add into the mix the fact that McKinnie's 2012 salary was already set to be garnished to the tune of 50 percent for failing to pay back a "lockout loan," and you can easily see why McKinnie was more interested in leaving Baltimore than taking a pay cut.
Luckily, the Ravens were able to convince McKinnie to agree to the restructure before Tuesday's 4 p.m. waiver deadline and keep him on the team. Because otherwise, Baltimore would be in some serious offensive-line trouble.
Losing a starter—any starter—just six days before the regular-season opener is a difficult proposition for any team. But a left tackle—the position most heavily tasked with protecting the quarterback—is doubly important. And when looking at the Ravens' alternatives without McKinnie in the mix, it becomes even more troublesome.
McKinnie's not the NFL's best left tackle, to be sure, and he's struggled keeping weight off. He showed up late to Ravens camp this year and spent time working with the second team as a result. Right tackle Michael Oher moved to the left, while rookie Kelechi Osemele took over Oher's job on the right.
If McKinnie would have walked on Tuesday, that would be the likely starting-tackle tandem in Monday's Week 1 contest against the Cincinnati Bengals. Jah Reid isn't ready—he didn't play in the preseason and he's never been a starter—and it would have left the Ravens (who are not in the best shape on the offensive line) with just eight linemen on the roster.
According to Pro Football Focus (members access), McKinnie was the NFL's 52nd-best offensive tackle in the league last year (out of 76 total) and 26th overall at left tackle. On the right side, Oher was ranked No. 44 (he ranked 46th out of 78 in 2010 as a left tackle).
The main reason why Oher is a downgrade over McKinnie isn't just found in the sacks allowed, quarterback hits or hurries (Oher, 2010: five sacks, 10 hits, 24 hurries; McKinnie, 2011: seven sacks, nine hits, 24 hurries), but it's also found in the penalties. Oher had 10 penalties last year and 13 as a left tackle in 2010; McKinnie had seven penalties last season. Penalties simply kill drives.
Offensive line is one of the Ravens' biggest weaknesses this year—at least, on paper and based on what we've seen in the preseason. So to lose a starter like McKinnie with the start of the season rapidly approaching would have been a huge problem for the Ravens to overcome in a very short amount of time.
Fortunately for the Ravens (and for McKinnie, who now gets to remain on a playoff-contending team), this deal was hammered out before the deadline. The bullet—albeit a long, drawn-out bullet that approached them over hours and not milliseconds—has been dodged and McKinnie remains in Baltimore, at least for this season.