Ravens' patience pays off in trading Gino Gradkowski

When NFL free agency began, I didn't understand why the Baltimore Ravens were keeping Gino Gradkowski on the roster.

The Ravens weren't going to pay a backup offensive lineman $1.542 million. They needed the cap room. And they had two players who could easily step into Gradkowski's role.

Three weeks later, it makes sense on why the Ravens held onto Gradkowski. General manager Ozzie Newsome got a little something for a player who didn't project to make the team because of his inflated salary.

On Wednesday, the Ravens traded Gradkowski and a 2016 draft pick to the Broncos in exchange for a 2016 selection from Denver. According to ESPN's Ed Werder, the Ravens will receive the Broncos' fourth-round pick in next year's draft and give up a fifth-rounder to Denver. That's a nice bump for a player who was on the field for eight offensive snaps a year ago for the Ravens.

The Ravens' patience certainly paid off. Newsome was willing to wait and see if some team wanted to bolster depth on the interior offensive line even though the Ravens could've used the extra cap room. Perhaps the Ravens knew of the Broncos' need there and the fondness that coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison had for Gradkowski when they were in Baltimore last season.

By trading Gradkowski, the Ravens net about $1 million in salary-cap space. That should give them about $7 million in cap room.

Gradkowski, a fourth-round pick in 2012, proved to be a disappointment. He started one full season (2013), and he was rated as the worst center that season by Pro Football Focus. Gradkowski was undersized and got overpowered at times.

Last offseason, Gradkowski was replaced in the starting lineup by Jeremy Zuttah, who was acquired from Tampa Bay for a 2015 fifth-round pick. Gradkowski was inactive for eight of the Ravens' final nine regular-season games. The Ravens can use either John Urschel or Ryan Jensen to back up Zuttah this season.

With Gradkowski gone, the Ravens are down to 13 players from their 2012 Super Bowl team (53-man roster): QB Joe Flacco, G Kelechi Osemele, G Marshal Yanda, LB Terrell Suggs, LB Courtney Upshaw, LB Albert McClellan, DT DeAngelo Tyson, P Sam Koch, K Justin Tucker, CB Jimmy Smith, TE Dennis Pitta, LS Morgan Cox and CB Asa Jackson.