The center position has been a revolving door For the Baltimore Ravens over the last few years. Since 2016, six different centers have started a regular-season game for the Ravens. Of those six centers, Matt Skura is the only player to start in 17 or more games. General manager Eric DeCosta now has a complicated decision to make. While Patrick Mekari and Trystan Colon-Castillo both remain on the Ravens roster, neither have shown they can start at center for a full season in the NFL. This likely points to the Ravens finding a new starting center in free agency. Baltimore ranked 21st in Pro Football Focus’s final offensive line rankings in 2021.
The Ravens also have the option of addressing center in the 2022 NFL Draft. However, Baltimore currently holds the 14th-overall pick and could be looking to select a player with higher positional value than center. It is the Ravens highest pick since picking fifth-overall in 2016. If the Ravens want to sign a center in free agency, these are three players DeCosta may be targetting.
Baltimore Ravens Free Agency Targets: Center
Bradley Bozeman (Baltimore Ravens) – 27 years old
Perhaps the most likely player to start at center for the Ravens in 2022 is the player who started for them at center in 2021. The Ravens selected Bozeman in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft after starting two full seasons at center for the Alabama Crimson Tide. He saw limited action as a rookie but was able to feature as a sixth lineman and briefly a guard. He then won the starting left guard spot the following season and held the position through each of the 2019 and 2020 seasons. However, with multiple Ravens centers struggling in 2020, staff awarded Bozeman a chance to flip back to his college position in 2021.
Bozeman not only impressed during his first full season at center, but he was debatably the Ravens most valuable offensive lineman. He started all but one of Baltimore’s 17 games, played a career-high 1,127 snaps, and finished with a career-best 73.3 overall grade per Pro Football Focus. Now the question becomes, will the Ravens be able to retain Bozeman at a price that works well for both parties?
The Ravens are currently projected to have roughly $18 million in cap space going into the league’s new year. This will likely increase after more cuts and potential restructures. Using Chase Roullier’s contract as a comparable, Bozeman will likely be worth upwards of $10 million per season on the open market. He has multiple years of starting experience at center, including his college days; yet, he is still currently just a one-year starter. Bozeman is likely the Ravens first choice at center going into next season but his price tag might be a little too high for DeCosta.
Ryan Jensen (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – 30 years old
While Jensen has played his best football as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he has to thank the Ravens for getting him to where he is. Jensen was selected by the Ravens in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Colorado State-Pueblo. It took him two years to make his first NFL start but he has since turned into one of the meanest and well-rounded centers in the NFL.
Jensen’s career arch with the Ravens is very similar to that of Bozeman. Both players played up and down the line before becoming impact players at center. Jensen only made 10 starts prior to the 2017 season but broke out in 2017 with Baltimore. The following off-season the Buccaneers then paid him accordingly to the tune of a four-year(s)/$42 million contract. Jensen then continued his stellar play in Tampa Bay — winning the Super Bowl in 2021 and making his first Pro Bowl this past season.
There’s no doubt the now-veteran Jensen would be a perfect fit for the Ravens. He already has a good track record with head coach John Harbaugh and brings a nastiness in run blocking that few centers can. His projected average annual value (per Spotrac) is roughly $10 million is also fairly reasonable for a player of his caliber. The only question would be; can Jensen stay durable and in form at 31 years old? If DeCosta believes Jensen still has a few good years left, it would be surprising if he did not at least kick tires on signing the former Raven.
Ben Jones (Tennessee Titans) – 32 years old
Jones is perhaps the most intriguing of the interior lineman in the 2022 free-agent class. Instead of declining after turning 30 years old three years ago, his play has debatably improved every year since 2018. Jones has missed just one start over the past eight seasons and was just 25 offensive snaps away from breaking his career record in 2021. He is also coming off of his third straight season with an overall grade above 75.0 per PFF. There are simply no signs to indicate Jones’s play will slip in the future.
Jones’s age is not necessarily an issue when it comes to him potentially landing in Baltimore. The Ravens made a signing similar to Jones’s caliber back in 2009 when they brought in Matt Birk. After a successful career and six Pro Bowls with the Minnesota Vikings, Birk signed with the Ravens just prior to turning 33 years old. He then went on to play four successful seasons in Baltimore and capped it off by being an integral part of the Ravens team that won Super Bowl XLVII.
Due to his age, Jones will likely be more affordable than either Bozeman or Jensen. The quality of his play is a big selling point but there is always a factor of uncertainty that comes with signing a veteran at Jones’s age. If Jones’s current projected value per PFF (three-year(s) – $6.67 AAV) holds true, DeCosta will likely be at the front of the line looking for his services. Jones excelled blocking for Derrick Henry in a run-heavy Titans offense and would fit in perfectly in Baltimore.