Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle James Hurst was suspended Friday for the first four games of the 2020 NFL season for violating the league's policy against performance-enhancing substances, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
The 28-year-old is set to enter his seventh NFL season, all of which have been spent with the Ravens. In 2018, he signed a four-year, $17.5 million extension that will keep him under contract through 2021.
Hurst appeared in all 16 games for the Ravens last season and started the two games that All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley missed.
Hurst started all 16 games in 2017 and all 10 games he appeared in during the 2018 campaign, but with 2018 draft picks Orlando Brown and Bradley Bozeman establishing themselves as starters at right tackle and left guard, respectively, last season, the undrafted free agent out of North Carolina was largely relegated to reserve duty.
Among players who are under contract from last year's team, Hurst is one of the Ravens' most accomplished backup offensive linemen, and his ability to play both tackle and guard is a major asset to head coach John Harbaugh's run-heavy scheme.
Overall, the 6'5", 310-pound Indiana native has appeared in 90 regular-season games and made 44 starts during his NFL career, so replacing him won't be easy.
Provided Hurst's four-game suspension is not rescinded, the Ravens may look to address their offensive line via free agency or the draft in April. There may also be additional pressure on backup offensive tackle Andre Smith to step in if there is an injury early next season after he signed a one-year deal to remain with the Ravens this month.
The 33-year-old is a former first-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals who has started 98 games in the NFL.
Since Smith is exclusively a tackle, however, the Ravens can ill afford for any of their interior offensive linemen to get injured early in the 2020 campaign.