OWINGS MILLS, MD — Since the beginning of training camp, three Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman got lost for the season either due to injury (Alex Lewis, Nico Siragusa) or retirement (John Urschel). On Friday, the team made up for some of those losses by signing free agent center Jeremy Zuttah.
Zuttah, 31, played the last three seasons with the Ravens, starting at center when healthy. Following a disappointing season, the Ravens traded Zuttah to the San Francisco 49ers in March for a sixth-round pick. That draft pick got used on Virginia Tech safety Chuck Clark. On Aug. 9, two days before their first preseason game, the 49ers released Zuttah. He reportedly drew interest from both the Ravens and Colts. Ultimately, the Ravens won the bid and helped an offensive line that faces serious depth concerns.
Zuttah made his first Pro Bowl in nine seasons in 2016, but that transpired after several offensive lineman elected not to play in the game. 2016 was not a solid season for Zuttah. He committed multiple holding penalties in critical spots against the Raiders and Cowboys last season. He also allowed three sacks.
The Ravens traded Zuttah before the draft, and waited until the fourth round to address the offensive line. Baltimore feels good about 2013 sixth-round pick Ryan Jensen to take over the starting job at center. If the coaching staff sticks to that plan, Zuttah will either back up Jensen or play left guard. The coaches could also elect for Zuttah and Jensen to play their natural positions; Jensen at left guard and Zuttah at center.
This move needed to occur. 2016 first round pick Ronnie Stanley missed practice this week with an undisclosed injury. Marshal Yanda has yet to play in a preseason game after undergoing shoulder surgery in the offseason. Austin Howard got some playing time on Thursday night against the Dolphins, but he still needs time to get acclimated with the offense after getting signed two weeks ago.
In the second preseason game against the Dolphins, the Ravens’ starting offensive line featured three undrafted players – James Hurst, Matt Skura and Jarrod Pughsley. Starting running backs Terrance West and Danny Woodhead combined for zero yards from scrimmage on seven carries. Not good.
Hearing Zuttah’s name may cause some Ravens fans to sigh, but his addition brings an upgrade to what the team currently possesses along the offensive line. Head Coach John Harbaugh provided no timetable for Stanley’s return to practice. The coaching staff is bringing Yanda along slowly. Not to mention that quarterback Joe Flacco has yet to practice in training camp due to a back injury. No one knows when Flacco will return.
The Ravens need to protect their franchise quarterback now more than ever. Losing three offensive lineman in training camp so far makes for a scary situation. Zuttah may not provide a long-term answer, but he owns 117 career starts. Zuttah knows the Ravens’ offense. The addition of senior offensive assistant Greg Roman brings a learning curve for Zuttah, but the regular season does not start for another three weeks.
The Ravens cannot afford any more injuries on the offensive line. However, if more injuries occur, the depth at the position upgraded with the addition of Zuttah.
Image Credit: Baltimore Sun