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The Ravens are making a run to bring back Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs, but if the two sides can’t agree on a new contract, then Baltimore will have to look into other options.
Grubbs and New Orleans Saints’ Carl Nicks are the top guards poised to hit the free-agent market, but if the Ravens can’t sign Grubbs, it’s unlikely they would be able to lure Nicks to Baltimore because of his salary demands.
Grubbs and Nicks will command top dollar, but here’s a look at some of the other guards who might be available.
Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles
Unrestricted (9th Season); 30 years old; 6-foot-5; 302 pounds 2011 Season: 15 starts
Mathis is coming off a season where he was a regular starter at left guard for the Eagles, earned All-Pro consideration and played in more games than he had in the last six years. When he’s healthy, Mathis is an effective guard and one of the best on the market behind Grubbs and Nicks. The problem, however, is that Mathis has yet to play in all 16 games in any of his eight NFL seasons. He has bounced around in his career, spending time with the Eagles, Panthers, Dolphins and Bengals. The Eagles aren’t sure if they will be able to re-sign Mathis, and team General Manger Howie Roseman said recently that they are planning to let him test the market. (Upside – Potential, AFC North Familiarity; Downside – Injuries)
Mike Brisiel, Houston Texans
Unrestricted (5th Season); 28; 6-5; 300 2011 Season: 13 starts
Brisiel is a solid right guard who is familiar with the zone blocking scheme that the Ravens adopted before last season. He has said that he hopes to re-sign with the Texans, but Houston has other top priorities like bringing back linebacker Mario Williams and running back Arian Foster. He has battled injuries at times and missed 19 games in his four NFL seasons. When healthy, he’s been Houston’s regular starter at right guard. If he were to sign with the Ravens, that would likely mean moving to left guard as Baltimore already has Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda on the right side. (Upside – Familiarity With Zone-Blocking Scheme, Proven Starter; Downside – Injuries, Move To Left Side)
Jeremy Zuttah, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Unrestricted (5th Season); 25; 6-4; 300 2011 Season: 14 starts
Zuttah has emerged as a solid young guard in the league and has been a starter with Tamp Bay for the last three seasons. He can also play center, where the Ravens also have a need. The problem, however, is that it’s unclear whether Zuttah will even reach free agency. The Buccaneers reportedly have plenty of salary cap flexibility and could work out a long-term deal with Zuttah before free agency starts. If Tampa Bay decides not to re-sign Zuttah, then he could be a nice fit with the Ravens. (Upside – Age, Starting Experience; Downside – Price)
Chad Rinehart, Buffalo Bills
Restricted (5th Season); 26; 6-5; 323 2011 Season: 12 starts
Rinehart was a versatile offensive lineman for the Bills this season, as he started eight games at right guard and four at left guard. He played well in his opportunities as a starter and has been a pleasant surprise for the Bills just one year after getting cut by the Jets. Depending on the tender the Bills place on Rinehart, the Ravens could go after him in exchange for a relatively low draft pick. (Upside – Age, Starting Experience; Downside – Give Up Draft Pick)
Montrae Holland, Dallas Cowboys
Unrestricted (10th Season); 31; 6-2; 340 2011 Season: 10 starts
Holland got off to a good start for the Cowboys, but he ended the season on injured reserve after undergoing surgery to repair a torn bicep. He has dealt with injuries in his career and has started just 14 games in the last four seasons. The Cowboys appear willing to let him hit the free-agent market. Given his age and history with injuries, he would likely not be a long-term answer at guard, but could provide some depth and experience. (Upside – Price, Experience; Downside –Age, Injuries)
Other names on the market: Jake Scott (Titans, unrestricted), Vernon Carey (Dolphins, unrestricted), Kraig Urbik (Bills, restricted), Bobbie Williams (Bengals, unrestricted), Geoff Hangartner (Panthers, unrestricted) and Kory Lichtensteiger (Redskins, unrestricted).