Vowing that the Ravens would find an answer at right tackle after not selecting one in last weekend’s draft, general manager Eric DeCosta didn’t wait long to fulfill that promise.
On Tuesday, Baltimore agreed to a two-year, $14 million deal that includes $8 million fully guaranteed with veteran offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, according to NFL Network. The former Pittsburgh Steeler visited with the Ravens a week before the draft, which coincided with last month’s trade of two-time Pro Bowl right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to Kansas City. Villanueva will turn 33 in September and is expected to start at right tackle and back up 2019 All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who will be returning from last year’s serious ankle injury that required two surgeries.
By waiting until after Monday’s deadline for unrestricted free-agent signings to count against the compensatory pick formula, the Ravens have preserved a pair of projected fourth-round compensatory picks for the free-agent departures of outside linebackers Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue.
Such a financial commitment to Villanueva does beg the question of where Stanley is with his rehabilitation process. In March, head coach John Harbaugh said the 2016 first-round pick was “on schedule” and “on track for at least training camp,” but Villanueva, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, does provide a solid insurance policy after starting every game at left tackle for the Steelers from late October of the 2015 season through the conclusion of last season. Pro Football Focus graded the 6-foot-9, 320-pound lineman 28th among 79 qualified offensive tackles in 2020, but his run blocking graded just 50th of 76 qualified tackles, which is a fair point of concern in joining the NFL’s best rushing attack.
A former captain in the U.S. Army and Army Ranger who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan, Villanueva has never started at right tackle in his NFL career, but the Ravens appear confident that he can make the transition. At the conclusion of the draft, Harbaugh noted that 2020 third-round pick Tyre Phillips remains in the mix at right tackle, but it’s unclear if Villanueva’s arrival will push Phillips back into the guard conversation. Villanueva is the second significant veteran addition to the offensive line this offseason after the Ravens signed right guard Kevin Zeitler in mid-March.
The Ravens haven’t confirmed that Bradley Bozeman will indeed move to center, but all signs point to that transition for the 2021 season, which is also a contract year for the veteran who started every game at left guard over the last two seasons. If that move comes to fruition, the biggest competition on the offensive line this summer should be at left guard with 2021 third-round rookie Ben Cleveland vying for the starting job with former fourth-round picks Ben Powers and Ben Bredeson.