Reward outweighs risk with McKinnie

The Baltimore Ravens and offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie decided they wanted to stay together despite a far-from-smooth relationship. The Ravens re-signed McKinnie to a two-year deal Thursday after a season in which Baltimore cut the former Pro Bowl lineman's pay and then benched him for the regular season.

McKinnie, 33, turned around his season and the Ravens' perception of him during the Super Bowl run, starting every playoff game and holding his own against some of the game's best pass-rushers. But it looked like McKinnie wasn't going to return.

Both sides publicly talked about exploring other options. McKinnie recently went on visits to the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers. Ravens officials made it known that they intended on moving Kelechi Osemele to left tackle.

In the end, the Ravens decided the reward outweighs the risk when it comes to McKinnie. He was impressive during those four weeks in the playoffs. He was a point of frustration for a handful of months preceding that.

Given the situation, McKinnie was the best option currently available. It would've been a gamble to put Osemele at left tackle when he's a proven commodity at guard and right tackle. And keeping McKinnie is better than moving back Michael Oher to the left side. The "Blind Side" tells Oher's life story but it's just not the right spot for him in the NFL. Who else did you want at left tackle? Max Starks?

There's definitely some risk involved with McKinnie because of past weight and work-ethic issues. It's hard to forget that he didn't show up for the start of training camp because of back problems and he never personally called the Ravens to inform them of his absence. Still, when you're looking to protect a $120 million quarterback in Joe Flacco, the choice had to be McKinnie.

After the Ravens didn't start McKinnie for the entire regular season (and this was after reducing his salary from $3.2 million to $2.2 million), coach John Harbaugh turned to McKinnie in the postseason. McKinnie had started to practice well in the final month of the season, and a spot in the starting lineup opened up when left guard Jah Reid got hurt. In four playoff games, McKinnie allowed two sacks and only one other additional quarterback hit.

"I think the way he played down the stretch against (Dwight) Freeney, against (Elvis) Dumervil, against Aldon Smith, I think it makes a statement for him," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said about McKinnie in February.

The Ravens would have wanted this to play out differently. I'm sure they would have liked to see how Osemele did in offseason camps the next six weeks. If he struggled, then they could have reached out to McKinnie. But the interest from the Dolphins and Chargers forced the Ravens to make a decision. Of all the options available, the Ravens made the right choice. Now if only the Ravens could figure out what to do at wide receiver.