Detroit Lions Free Agency 2011: The Case for Baltimore Ravens OT Jared Gaither
He is not on the top of my wish list, as I think there are better free agents out there, and it is preferable to build an offensive line through the draft, but the acquisition of Rob Sims last year went a long way towards improving Detroit's offensive line play in 2010.
There is no doubt that Gaither would improve the Detroit Lions at the left tackle position.
He was the franchise left tackle for the Ravens until the arrival of Michael Oher. He is a monster of a man, even at the left tackle position (6'9" and 340 lbs). He is best known for being a punishing run blocker, although he is an underrated pass blocker.
He has a long reach and has the power to blanket pass rushers, while still being fleet footed enough to keep up with speed rushers. And he is just 24!
All in all, he is a top-flight franchise left tackle.
You may wonder why he is even available in free agency. However, he has had problems with injuries so far in his NFL career. He has had his knees and ankles nicked up a lot, and also suffered a major head injury in October 2009.
Even more worrying, and the main reason for the Ravens trying to trade him last season, and why they wont re-sign him this year, is his "half-baked work ethic." The Ravens have great depth at tackle with Michael Oher (24) locking down the left side and Marshal Yanda (26) at right tackle.
Should the Detroit Lions sign Jared Gaither in the off season?
For the Lions, Gaither would allow them to turn their weakness at left tackle into a strength. The projected line for 2011 would line up from left to right as Gaither, Rob Sims, Dominic Raiola, Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherlius (if he "gets it") or Corey Hilliard. This is a passable line that should get decent push in the running game on the left side of the line and hold up well in pass coverage.
Since Gaither is only 24, he could be expected to be a force at left tackle for another 10 years at least. This would give great continuity to a young, explosive offense.
In any other year, I would give Gaither a must-get grade for free agency because of his youth and ability at a position of need. However, the offensive line started playing a lot better at the end of the season during the Lions winning streak. There are far more pressing needs at centre, linebacker and in the secondary. There are also a lot of talented corner backs and linebackers going to free agency in March.
Signing Gaither would mean that the Lions could make no more moves in free agency other than signing players like Cliff Avril and Chris Houston. This is an unacceptable pay off for a player who is an injury risk and has a bad work ethic. It says a lot that Baltimore, the team that understands what a good left tackle is, are reluctant to sign him to a long-term deal.
If Gaither sits in free agency for a few weeks, his asking price would drop. If the Lions had not already spent all their money, this could be their chance to grab Gaither for a much more reasonable price that is short of the monster deal a franchise blind side tackle is paid.
In conclusion, Gaither, while being a young, very talented player in a valuable position of need, has issues which cannot be overlooked. While it would be great to gain his services, it would have negative ramifications on the development of the defense, which is the primary concern of the offseason.
Odds of being in Honolulu blue in 2011: 25 percent
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