Currently, Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed has been contemplating retirement due to neck injuries over the past few years.
At the same time, the Ravens have a window of opportunity to replace Reed with a rookie that could be just as good, if not better.
That rookie is Tennessee safety Eric Berry. He is likely to be selected in the top 10 of next Thursday's NFL Draft.
Here's the catch. The Ravens likely won't move until the day of the draft in order to see if Berry is still available, rather than trade up beforehand and thus reveal its hand.
The Ravens have the opportunity to trade into the top 10 because they have a blue chip in order to move up, and that blue chip is left tackle Jared Gaither.
Gaither has been a restricted free agent and there is some question about whether Gaither is being shopped by Baltimore. But with last year's first-round pick, Michael Oher, in the wings to replace Gaither at left tackle, I'll bet that Gaither is on the way out.
A trade of Gaither to Oakland would reunite him with offensive coach Hue Jackson.
Some of course will wonder why the Ravens would let Gaither go if he really is any good. I think you must consider the situation. Rarely if ever has there been such a popular movie as the one about Oher's life, The Blind Side (2009).
That means that Oher is more marketable and thus more profitable than Gaither (i.e., jerseys) in an NFL climate where finances are uncertain. Moreover, Gaither has been criticized for his work ethic, while Oher has been praised for his.
I would think that Baltimore would rather groom a hard-worker, even if Oher is a few steps back of Gaither right now.
Right now, Gaither has played at an elite level. Ironically, Gaither is from the University of Maryland, which is the same school as OT Bruce Campbell (expected by many to be Oakland's top pick in the draft).
Gaither has been a starter for the past two seasons and in that time his metrics have been nothing short of superb. He has allowed only seven total sacks in 27 games and only one of these was a one-on-one sack (defined as when a defender beats a blocker in a one-on-one environment and tackles the quarterback in the pocket within three seconds of the snap). That illustrates Gaither's dominant pass-blocking skills, but his run-blocking numbers are also quite notable. Gaither was at the Point of Attack (POA) on 300 running plays the past two years and he won his block 255 times, or 85% of the time. That is a solid number on its own, but his 2009 POA win rate of 89.0% is even more noteworthy. To put that total into perspective, consider that in a typical NFL season, a little less than one out of ten offensive linemen will crack the 90% POA win mark. Gaither was on the precipice of that mark last year despite battling injuries (ESPN, KC Joyner).
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