Marshal Yanda deserves to finish career with Ravens

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens signed guard Marshal Yanda to a four-year extension Friday, providing some of the best news for the team in a dismal start to the season.

It's also a much-deserved deal for a hard-nosed and selfless lineman who has earned the right to finish his career in Baltimore. Only a select few -- Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden -- have been able to do so, and Yanda is going to be recognized as one of the best players in team history when he's finished shoving around defensive linemen and putting linebackers on their backs.

The organization has signs throughout its facility that read "Play Like A Raven," and Yanda's grizzly bearded pic should be placed right next to it.

"Marshal Yanda is not only a staple of our offensive line but also a staple of our entire team," general manager Ozzie Newsome said Friday. "He is the best of what a Raven should be."

Yanda is perhaps the toughest player to wear a Ravens uniform. Toward the end of the 2012 season, he needed emergency surgery on his right leg -- surgeons had to split a muscle to relieve pressure -- after a win over the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 24. Yanda was back on the field a week later and made the key block on Ray Rice’s first touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals. "It was a nasty scar and a [crappy] way to spend Christmas Eve, but that's what it was," Yanda said at the time.

Yanda is the Ravens' best offensive lineman since Ogden and perhaps the top one in the NFL right now. Grantland recently called Yanda the best offensive lineman in the game. Pro Football Focus ranked Yanda as the fifth-best player in the NFL. Ravens coach John Harbaugh called him a future Hall of Fame player. Yanda is known as a dominating run blocker. There have been times when he has shoved three defenders on one play to single-handedly open a hole. He's also a top-notch pass protector, allowing four sacks over his last four seasons.

And Yanda is no-nonsense. Last December in Houston, injuries hit the offensive line and the Ravens sent guard John Urschel in to play right tackle. Knowing Urschel had never played that position before, Yanda told the rookie to play right guard. Yanda moved from right guard to tackle, where he hadn't played in four seasons, and ended up being the Ravens' highest-rated offensive player that week. "I told Marshal, 'You could probably play quarterback,'" former offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said. "That's the way he is. He's an amazing player. His attention to detail, his commitment to the football team and what he does is as good as I've ever been around."

The Ravens have let other great players like Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata go elsewhere. So, it says something that Baltimore made sure it held onto Yanda.

Yanda is playing as well as he's ever played in his nine-season NFL career. Even though Yanda is 31, there is little concern of him wearing down. He has played more offensive snaps than anyone else on the Ravens since 2013.

"I look forward to carrying on the Baltimore Ravens' great tradition," Yanda said. "Hopefully I will finish my career as a Raven."

At a time when the Ravens are 1-4, this is the perfect time to show their commitment to a player who is willing to do whatever it takes to win.