I assumed, like many did, that guard Ben Grubbs was a certainty to leave the Ravens as a free agent. Not anymore.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh told a Baltimore radio station that the team will aggressively attempt to keep the 2007 first-round pick.
“We’ve offered -- I don’t know if we’ve offered it yet -- but we're in negotiations of offering a lot of money," Harbaugh said last night, via the Ravens' website. “We’re going to really make a run at Ben.”
This is both the most surprising and best move that the Ravens could make. I'm not a fan of putting a lot of money into one position, and the Ravens gave guard Marshal Yanda a five-year, $32.5 million deal seven months ago.
So, why should the Ravens give another guard a sizable contract? Look at the alternatives. There has been talk about the Ravens moving Jah Reid to Grubbs' left guard spot. Shifting a second-year backup tackle to fill the void of a Pro Bowl player is a major step down. If the Ravens look to free agency, they could end up with someone like an aging Bobbie Williams.
The only reason why this would be a bad move is if a Grubbs deal hampers what the Ravens can do in free agency. Baltimore can fill the starting spots of free-agent linebackers Jarret Johnson and Jameel McClain from within or the draft, but it should address wide receiver and backup running back in free agency.
The value of Grubbs increased significantly last season. When he missed six games with a toe injury, the Ravens offensive line struggled without him. Baltimore has seen what it's like to play without Grubbs, and it wasn't pretty.
When Harbaugh says the Ravens are offering "a lot of money," that offer had better match the one given to Yanda at the very minimum. There is no way that Grubbs will take anything less than what Yanda received, and that means an average of $6.5 million and a $10 million signing bonus.
Harbaugh said Grubbs and Yanda are as good a tandem as any in the NFL, and “we’re going to pay Ben as such.”
“He’ll just have to make a decision like all the guys do,” Harbaugh said. “You know, to do that now or to go ahead and take it out to free agency and take it out to the market and see if he can get even more than that. That’s a decision he’s going to have to make with his agent, but I know Ben wants to be here, he’s told me that numerous times.”
And, if Grubbs doesn't accept the Ravens' offer?
"Then we’re just going to have to move on and kind of rebuild the offensive line a little bit,” Harbaugh said. “But hopefully we’ll be able to deal with Ben.”