Ravens, McKinnie Restructure Contract; But Who Plays LG?
12 OTHER TEAMS CARRYING TWO QBS
By Joe Platania
OWINGS MILLS -- It has been five years since the Baltimore Ravens hosted a Monday-night game, a fact that has head coach John Harbaugh excited about the coming season opener.
But it had been about five hours since news broke of left tackle Bryant McKinnie's possible release because of a contract dispute.
Despite Harbaugh's usual tunnel vision, he's not blind: he was aware that when he took the podium for Tuesday afternoon's press conference, his respect for Cincinati Bengals standouts such as Andrew Whitworth and A.J. Green were going to get lost in the speculation about McKinnie.
"Bryant McKinnie is with us," Harbaugh said upon announcing the resolution of the dispute. "He's here. I just had a great conversation with him. I'm excited about Bryant."
Earlier during the day, it had appeared that McKinnie would be released for his unwillingness to take a pay cut. But with the Ravens needing more salary-cap room, the team approached its oft-troubled starting left tackle about reconfiguring his contract to free up more space.
In the end, McKinnie won't make the $3.2 million in base salary he was slated to garner, but he apparently would be able to reach that figure through incentive clauses.
But one question was not fully answered: what will the Ravens' mercurial offensive line look like against the Bengals?
It's likely that Michael Oher will switch back to right tackle with McKinnie's return, and that Matt Birk and Marshal Yanda will again play center and right guard, respectively. But will ex-Bengal Bobbie Williams -- he of the bothersome ankle -- play left guard, or will it be rookie second-round pick Kelechi Osemele?
"Five guys will start," Harbaugh said with a smile, "and we do have a plan."
If McKinnie had been released, Oher would then have moved back to the left side, second-round draft pick Kelechi Osemele -- more highly regarded as a guard -- would play right tackle and the team's tackle depth would have been compromised.
If that switch had taken place, oft-injured 2010 sixth-round draft pick Ramon Harewood would then be the left-side backup. Harewood has spent both his professional seasons on injured reserve, having had surgery on both knees at one point.
Starting right guard Marshal Yanda is the only other proven tackle on the roster, having played there extensively at the University of Iowa and again in 2010 with the Ravens.
But Harbaugh said he still had faith in McKinnie.
"He's a hard-working guy," the coach said of his tackle. "We have guys who practice hard and practice fast, and he's always done that.
"He's working his way back to Pro Bowl form (2009), and it's something we've talked about since last winter."
Harbaugh said the McKinnie affair wouldn't distract his team, as the players are familiar with the business aspect of the sport.
The business aspect made for a tumultuous day.
Several broadcast and print reports at first stated that McKinnie, one of 29 Ravens heading into the final year of his contract, was released after he declined a request to restructure his deal, one that would have originally paid him $3.2 million this year. Reportedly, the pay cut would be 50 percent, giving him $1.6 million in 2012.
Mere minutes after those reports surfaced between 12:45 and 1 p.m., more news broke that McKinnie and the Ravens were still working toward a settlement of the dispute.
The Ravens gained roughly $2 million in cap room when they released kicker Billy Cundiff during the final cutdown, putting their payroll close to $5 million less than the salary cap.
There had been speculation that the Ravens had approached McKinnie to restructure his contract so they Ravens can acquire a pass-rush specialist from another team, because of that unit's below-average preseason showing.
Linebacker Terrell Suggs, the team's all-time leading sack artist and the league's reigning Defensive Player of the Year, will miss at least half the season after having Achilles tendon surgery.
McKinnie, a University of Miami teammate of former Ravens running back Willis McGahee and current Baltimore safety Ed Reed, was drafted seventh overall during the 2002 NFL Draft and played nine seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.
The Ravens signed McKinnie, a 6-foot-8, 354-pound tackle, last August, and he started all 16 regular-season games and both postseason contests, showing slow foot speed against outside pass rushers and average technique during run plays.
McKinnie has long had a history of being overweight; conditioning problems helped keep him off the field during the spring practice season, and he failed to show up for the first few days of training camp, incurring a $30,000 daily fine.
This happened despite McKinnie having been paid what amounted to a good-faith roster bonus of $500,000 in March and a $1.5 million performance bonus shortly before that.
In early August, news surfaced that the Ravens would be garnishing half of McKinnie's 2012 pay to help repay a loan he took out to protect himself financially during the 2011 lockout.
During training camp, McKinnie -- who said he had suffered a back injury at home before reporting to camp -- failed the team's conditioning test, known for being one of the league's most rigorous.
But before camp mode ended at the Ravens' headquarters, he did work himself back onto the first-string unit, moving Michael Oher back to his normal right-tackle spot.
QB TALK: Even though the Ravens have walked a perilous tightrope for the last three seasons (including this year) by carrying just two active-roster quarterbacks, they're hardly alone in this methodology.
According to the league's quarterback depth charts, 13 total teams are currently employing just two signal callers, including the Ravens' Week One opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals (7 p.m., Monday; ESPN, WJZ-TV; WIYY-FM).
Backing up Bengals starter Andy Dalton is none other than three-team NFL veteran Bruce Gradkowski, brother of Ravens' fourth-round pick and backup center Gino Gradkowski.
The other two-QB teams are Chicago, Dallas, Green Bay, Jacksonville, New England, New Orleans, New York Giants, St. Louis, San Diego, Seattle and Tampa Bay.
Mindful of the fact that all of this is subject to change, 19 teams are currently using three on the active roster. A few notes about the quarterbacks:
- Going into his 11th year in the league, Maryland graduate Shaun Hill (Detroit) is one of only a dozen quarterbacks with 10 or more years of experience.
- Cam Newton has an interesting set of backups in Carolina: Jimmy Clausen, who was highly touted out of Notre Dame, and ex-Ravens sixth-round pick Derek Anderson.
- Although Duke is a men's basketball powerhouse, it is not known for football. But former Blue Devil quarterback Thaddeus Lewis is the third-stringer in Cleveland.
- Former Ravens and Redskins backup John Beck's latest landing spot is Houston, where he backs up Matt Schaub and playoff starter T.J. Yates.
- Dan Orlovsky, who famously ran out the back of the end zone for Detroit a few years back, is the No. 2 behind Josh Freeman in Tampa Bay.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Wide receiver Torrey Smith had a telling comment when asked how he read coverages:
"The corner[backs] lie. The safeties don't. You don't really play the corners in your mind; it's the safeties' [positioning] that tells you what's going on."
Posted Sept. 4, 2012