PLEASE NOTE: The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
The Ravens have questions on their offensive line heading into next season, but General Manager Ozzie Newsome made one thing perfectly clear on Wednesday: the group will have a new center on the roster.
“I will say this: Before we line up and play in 2012, there will be another center on this football team in some capacity – free agency, draft or whatever,” Newsome said at the Ravens’ end-of-season press conference.
What role that new center plays, however, remains to be seen.
Starting Center Matt Birk becomes a free agent this offseason and the 14-year veteran is also considering retirement. He is expected to make a decision about his future plans in the next couple months.
“We don’t know what Matt Birk is going to do yet,” Newsome said.
If Birk decides to return and agrees to a new contract with the Ravens, then he would likely remain in the starting lineup.
Birk’s backup this season was 10-year veteran Andre Gurode, who signed with Baltimore last year after nine seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. He was a Pro Bowler in Dallas from 2006-10.
In his one season with the Ravens, Gurode shuffled around the line to fill in for injured players. He started five games at left guard when Ben Grubbs went down with a toe injury, and he also played some at center and right guard.
He was a versatile player for the Ravens and has expressed interest in returning for another season.
“He’s acknowledged to me that he enjoyed his one year in Baltimore and would like to continue,” Newsome said.
If Gurode returns, he could potentially compete for the starting center job, especially if Birk is gone.
It’s also a realistic possibility that neither Birk nor Gurode will be back for another season, meaning that one of the new faces joining the Ravens will take over the starting center duties.