Failing to sign G Evan Mathis hurts Ravens

The Ravens' inability to sign free-agent guard Evan Mathis is another blow to the AFC North champions in the first week of free agency. Mathis passed on an offer made by the Ravens Friday and re-signed with the Eagles for a maximum of $31 million over five years (including $7 million guaranteed).

Baltimore's first and best option was retaining Ben Grubbs, the second-best guard in free agency. But he signed with the New Orleans Saints for a five-year, $36 million deal that included a $10 million signing bonus -- a deal that was just slightly better than the one given to the Ravens' Marshal Yanda (which was what many presumed the Ravens offered).

The Ravens' second choice was going after Mathis, the third-best guard on the free-agent market. Baltimore officials flew him in for a visit and even took him out for dinner. In the end, it looks like Mathis wanted to return to the Eagles all along and was using the Ravens as a bargaining chip.

Now, left guard is the biggest hole on the Ravens team. The Ravens have options, but all of them are a clear downgrade from Grubbs and Mathis.

In terms of free agency, the Ravens could sign either a veteran cast-off like Eric Steinbach or Robert Gallery, or pursue someone younger like Chilo Rachal, who lost his starting job in San Francisco after a solid 2010 season. Another potential fit would be Kyle Kosier, who is reportedly getting cut by the Cowboys. Kosier is 33 and has had some injury issues, but he's been described as the leader of the Cowboys' offensive line.

As far as the draft, Baltimore can take Wisconsin's Peter Konz in the first round. He's the top-rated center coming out of college but he can play guard, too. This might be an opportunity for Konz to learn beside Matt Birk for a season or two before moving over to center.

If the Ravens want to promote from within, the talked-about scenario is switching tackle Jah Reid, a third-round pick last year, to guard. But this would represent the fall-back for Baltimore.