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Matt Birk will be back in Baltimore for at least another season.
The Ravens starting center had reportedly contemplated retirement this offseason, but made the decision to return and worked out a new three-year contract with the Ravens, pending the passing of a physical.
Birk, 35, has spent the last three seasons as the Ravens starting center.
Retaining Birk means that the Ravens will keep four of their five starting linemen from last season.
“One of the things we said earlier this offseason is that we were going to focus attention on the offensive line, and getting Matt Birk back is key for us,” General Manager Ozzie Newsome said. “He is a top player, his intelligence is obvious, and he is a leader on and off the field.”
The lone departing piece is Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs, who signed with New Orleans. Baltimore is reportedly already trying to work out a deal with Evan Mathis to fill Grubbs’ spot on the line.
Bringing back Birk allows the Ravens to maintain the core of their line, which was one of the NFL’s best last season.
The six-time Pro Bowler was a key part of an offensive line that cleared the way for one of the league’s top rushing attacks, as Ray Rice ran for a career-high 1,364 yards last season.
Even with Birk’s decision to return, the Ravens could still draft a center or look to sign another in free agency. Newsome said last month, “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.”
The team’s backup center last year was veteran Andre Gurode, who is an unrestricted free agent. It is unclear if the Ravens will try to re-sign him.
Birk will likely enter the season as the favorite to be the starter, but the Ravens could still draft Konz and have him learn under the veteran center.
Birk has played with the Ravens and Vikings during his career and has started 96 consecutive games, the second-longest streak among active centers.
The Harvard graduate is also highly involved in the Baltimore community, as he was named the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year for his charitable work and success on the field. Birk’s “Ready, Set Read!” program promotes childhood literacy and has reached close to 100,000 children in the Baltimore area.