The Baltimore Ravens made a move Tuesday to strengthen the one noticeable weakness on their roster: the offensive line.
The Ravens signed offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, a former Pro Bowler, hoping that his release by the Minnesota Vikings, amidst ballooning weight, is not a sign that the tackle's best days are behind him.
The Ravens offensive line could be the unit that holds the team from fulfilling its Super Bowl aspirations.
In Bryant McKinnie could the Ravens have found a player who will take the offensive line from liability to strength?
Left tackle, the most important position on the offensive line, has been manned in Baltimore by Michael Oher.
The tackle, of Blind Side fame, started on the right side his rookie season before sliding over to the left last season with mixed results.
Oher had a stunning amount of false start penalties last season, and had a hard time keeping Troy Polamalu out of the Ravens backfield during the playoffs.
There are questions about Oher's ability to play left tackle due to his relative lack of height and short arms.
Oher is 6'4" while McKinnie is 6'8".
The value of height at the left tackle position cannot be underestimated.
Bryant McKinnie has had a very solid career at left tackle, allowing only 36 sacks in 131 career starts. For McKinnie to play left tackle for the Ravens, he needs to prove he is in shape and show John Harbaugh that he can still move well enough to stop the NFL's best edge rushers.
The Vikings cut ties with McKinnie as his weight approached 400 pounds.
It then took three weeks for a team to sign the former Pro Bowler.
When the player in question is a former Pro Bowler that is a very troubling sign.
If there was a widely held belief that Bryant McKinnie could still play at the Pro Bowl level, a team would have snapped him up within days.
The Ravens do not usually make risky free agent signings, and in the NFL where a player can be cut as easily as he is signed, there is not a lot of risk involved in trying out a former Pro Bowler.
McKinnie, who was involved in the Minnesota Love Boat scandal and charged with assault stemming from a fight outside a night club in Miami needs to prove that his off field problems are a thing of the past.
McKinnie's focus needs to be on football in Baltimore, and several Ravens who are also products of the University of Miami vouched for the tackle before the Ravens signed him.
Bryant McKinnie will have a very short time to show Ravens coaches he has his weight in check and is focused on playing football. If he is able to do so, he will be able to help the Ravens.
McKinnie will have the rest of the preseason to prove he can still start in the NFL.
Even if he does earn the starting job, Ravens fans should not expect too much out of him.
There were serious concerns about McKinnie's ability to still play, and the fact that he allowed his weight to get out of control during the lockout leads to questions about his desire.
The Ravens would be wise to take it slow with McKinnie.
The worst thing they could do would be to line him up against James Harrison or LaMarr Woodley in week one before he is ready.
McKinnie's best days are most likely behind him, but it does not hurt the Ravens to take a chance on a former Pro Bowler.
The true impact of this addition will not be felt until the season starts. Right now, for Ravens fans, it shows that management realizes the offensive line is the biggest weakness on an otherwise strong team. Ozzie Newsome and company have attempted to fill a hole with a former Pro Bowler.
That in itself makes this a fairly big addition for the Ravens. The signing of Bryant McKinnie should not signal an end to the Ravens search for offensive line depth. They would do well to sign at least one more lineman, possibly one with the versatility to play more than one position.