Who Will Win Baltimore Ravens' Right Tackle Battle

Jason MarcumCorrespondent IIIMay 25, 2014

Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Ricky Wagner (71) lines up against the Cincinnati Bengals in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/David Kohl)
David Kohl/Associated Press

The Baltimore Ravens have had a great offseason, addressing many of their biggest needs through free agency and the NFL draft.

But there's one position that had a lot of uncertainty heading into the 2014-15 NFL season. Offensive tackle Michael Oher departed in free agency, leaving the Ravens without their starting right tackle of the past four years.

The Ravens offensive line allowed 48 sacks in 2013, which was tied with the Buffalo Bills for the fourth-most allowed in the NFL in 2013.

Having a hole at right tackle certainly isn't going to help improve this line in 2014. They can't continue to let franchise quarterback Joe Flacco take the kind of beating he did in 2013.

Despite this, the Ravens didn't spend a draft pick on a tackle in free agency or the draft. That leaves second-year man Ricky Wagner being projected as the starting right tackle.

As a rookie, Wagner registered just 131 offensive snaps in 2013, so he's a big unknown. Even if he can become a decent starter, there's no real depth behind him.

As of now, David Mims is the only backup tackle with previous experience, but he's a career backup who's never registered an offensive snap.

Sep 15, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens guard Kelechi Osemele (72) prepares to block Cleveland Browns linebacker Barkevious Mingo (51) during the second half at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens won 14 - 6. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Spo

North Carolina's James Hurst was signed as an undrafted free agent, and he and Mims are the two projected backup tackles behind Wagner.

There may not be anything to worry about, though. ESPN's Jamison Hensley thinks the Ravens made the right move letting Oher go, and offensive guard Kelechi Osemele could be the one who replaces him. 

The Ravens made the right decision in not re-signing Michael Oher. He wasn't worth the four-year, $20 million contract given to him by the Tennessee Titans. Many thought the Ravens would find his replacement in the draft.

But it would've been a reach to take a right tackle where the Ravens were sitting in the first three rounds. If Wagner struggles, the Ravens can either sign veteran free agent Eric Winston or move left guard Kelechi Osemele to right tackle.

Osemele started seven games at left guard in 2013 before missing the rest of the year due to a back injury. Head coach John Harbaugh said at Baltimore's rookie camp that Osemele is healing well.

“K.O. [Kelechi Osemele] looks good,” Harbaugh said, via Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com. “He’s been out here; he’s been 100 percent in what we’ve been allowed to do so far. So, we have seen really no issues with him at all.”

As a rookie in 2012, Osemele started 17 games at right tackle before moving to left guard to replace the ineffective Jah Reid. 

According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Osemele has a cumulative 3.1 grade from his 17 starts at right tackle. He could be the best option to start at RT if healthy. 

Still, the Ravens may still to look to add depth to the offensive tackle position. As Hensley mentioned in the above article, Eric Winston is still on the market if Baltimore wants to sign him. 

The eight-year pro was drafted by the Houston Texans in 2006, and then-head coach Gary Kubiak groomed Winston into one of the better right tackles in the NFL.

It just so happens Kubiak is now the Ravens offensive coordinator, and his familiarity with Winston could make this the perfect fit for both sides. 

Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com also believes the Ravens could consider signing Winston:

"One player pundits point to is Eric Winston, who is still a free agent. He played six seasons under new Ravens Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak in Houston. Winston is just 30 years old and hasn’t missed a start since 2007." 

In the end, I believe this position battle will come down to Wagner and Osemele. The battle will rage on through training camp and the preseason, and the more experienced Osemele ends up being the starting right tackle in Week 1.