What’s Next For Ravens’ Offensive Line Following Patrick Mekari Extension?

The Ravens have signed offensive lineman Patrick Mekari to a three-year contract extension, the team announced on Dec. 30, giving them at least one known quantity in a position group clouded by uncertainty heading into 2022.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it is reported to be for about $15.3 million with $7 million guaranteed, according to spotrac.com, which tracks player contracts. Mekari, who was set to be a restricted free agent next year, is now under contract through the 2024 season.

Originally signed as an undrafted rookie out of Cal, Mekari has proved to be the Ravens’ most versatile, and therefore one of their most valuable, offensive linemen. He has made 23 starts in his three-year career, including 10 at right tackle this season. He missed four games this year with ankle and hand injuries.

Mekari is not listed on this week’s injury report and should be on the field when the Ravens (8-7) host the Los Angeles Rams (11-4) at M&T Bank Stadium Jan. 2 hoping to halt a four-game losing streak and keep their fading postseason hopes alive.

In his previous two seasons, Mekari started three games at right guard and 10 at center, and during training camp will get reps at all five offensive line positions, giving the Ravens a super-utility option who can plug in anywhere along the line.

In announcing the extension, general manager Eric DeCosta called Mekari a “five-position player who does everything the right way.”

DeCosta said Mekari’s extension was “an easy decision,” one of the few concerning the Ravens’ offensive line looking toward 2022.

Among the major questions that DeCosta and his staff must wrestle with this offseason:

— Will center Bradley Bozeman be back? He is set to hit free agency this coming spring and could command a price the Ravens are not able or willing to offer;

— Do the Ravens bring back Alejandro Villanueva? The veteran tackle is signed through 2022, but cutting him would free $6 million in cap savings and cost about $3.2 million in dead money;

— Does tackle Ronnie Stanley return to his All-Pro form after essentially a lost season and further complications from his 2020 ankle injury?

— How does Tyre Phillips fit into this equation? A college tackle projected to be an NFL guard, he has struggled to find a niche in two injury-riddled seasons and was placed on injured reserve Dec. 30, ending his season;

— Does Ja’Wuan James factor? He was signed by the Ravens this past summer not long after tearing his Achilles tendon and practiced for the past few weeks but then reverted to the non-football injury list this week, thus ending any attempt to return this season;

— Do the Ravens have their left guard of the future in Ben Powers or rookie Ben Cleveland? Does Phillips fit in that equation? Or Mekari?

About the only known quantities are that Kevin Zeitler, signed through 2023, will be back at right guard, and Mekari will line up somewhere.

Mekari’s extension continues DeCosta’s trend of retaining and rewarding his own players with new deals. Since taking over as general manager, DeCosta has worked out contract extensions with more than a dozen Ravens, including Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews earlier this year.

One extension that has yet to happen, though, is that of quarterback Lamar Jackson, and his contract status continues to loom over all other decision-making at The Castle. Jackson is in the final year of his rookie deal, and the Ravens have exercised their fifth-year option on him next season. Barring an extension, Jackson’s cap figure in his option year will jump to roughly $23 million.

Both sides have said they expect a long-term deal to happen, but what that ultimately will cost, and what that will leave for filling other roster holes, are the great unknowns.

In the shadow of that uncertainty, DeCosta and the Ravens also have a length list of roster needs, especially on defense, to address via the draft or free agency.

The Ravens also have several pending unrestricted free agents. In addition to Bozeman, that list includes multiple starters, such as fullback Patrick Ricard, defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams, linebacker Justin Houston, cornerback Anthony Averett and safety DeShon Elliott.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Bo Smolka

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