While Matt Birk is enjoying his recent transition to retirement, the Baltimore Ravens are looking for his replacement at center.
It was assumed that 2012 fourth-round pick Gino Gradkowski would take over as the No. 1 center for the Ravens. Recent moves, however, have been made to introduce some competition for the starting gig that Birk has held for the past four seasons.
First, the Ravens added Ryan Jensen in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Then, on Thursday, GM Ozzie Newsome orchestrated a trade with the Indianapolis Colts to acquire center A.Q. Shipley in exchange for a conditional 2014 draft pick.
Shipley became expendable in Indianapolis after the Colts drafted Khaled Holmes in the fourth round of last April’s draft. That, however, does no justice to the type of impact the former 2009 seventh-round pick can have as the anchor of an NFL offensive line.
Last season, Shipley started five games for the Colts after injuries decimated the front five. While snapping the ball to Andrew Luck, Shipley proved himself to be one of the most consistent, reliable options along the Indianapolis offensive line. On 284 pass plays, Shipley gave up only five pressures and zero sacks. He also graded out positively as a run blocker, using his 6’1”, 309-pound frame to root out interior defensive linemen.
Even if Shipley doesn’t surpass Gradkowski for the starting gig, he will provide solid depth on the interior while contributing on special teams. Either way, it’s a low-risk, high-reward move for the Ravens as Newsome continues to find ways to upgrade his already-stacked roster.
Gradkowski knew the job wasn’t going to be handed to him, and now has the likes of Shipley vying for his spot atop the center depth chart. Competition breeds excellence, so it’s a win-win for the Ravens.