Jared Gaither has had the misfortune of coming in to play left tackle for the Ravens after the retirement of a first-ballot Hall of Famer in Jonathan Ogden. While looked upon as a project when he first arrived with the Ravens, Gaither has risen to become the starting left tackle, one of the most important positions in the game of football. After last season, Gaither became a restricted free agent and was offered a first-round tender which would pay him $2.3 million for one year. Gaither has said in the past that he wishes to be a Raven for life and wants to sign a long-term contract. But what are the chances the Ravens will give him one? When he missed the beginning of the voluntary offseason workout program a few weeks ago, Coach John Harbaugh was concerned enough to call him out, stating that if Gaither wanted to be great, he needed to be present for the workouts. Gaither’s response was that he was rehabbing an ankle injury sustained at the end of the season and didn’t want to interrupt the therapy to report to the workout program. Should that send up a red flag on a player that reportedly has a half-hearted work ethic?
Recently it has come to light that the Ravens are listening to offers for Gaither; which suggests that he may not be long for the left tackle job. After all, the club selected Michael Oher in last year’s draft. Oher was a left tackle in college and considered one of, if not the best, tackles in last year’s draft class. No one could possibly imagine that the Ravens drafted Oher to play right tackle for the duration of his Ravens’ career. Certainly the top brass had it in mind that he would eventually become the starter on the left side (and in the few games he played there last season while Gaither was injured, Oher did well). The rumor mill says that Gaither could be had by the right team for a second-round draft choice in this year’s draft, considered a deep draft by many analysts. Baltimore would get yet another pick to use to fill a need; perhaps even finding a right tackle once they decide to move Oher to the left side permanently once Gaither is gone. Peter King of Sports Illustrated feels that the Ravens could make a deal with the Dallas Cowboys for their second round choice, and believes it makes sense for the Ravens to do so.
Gaither certainly has the potential to be a high-quality left tackle, but is he better than Michael Oher? If you believe his upside is as high as Oher’s, then maybe you keep him around. But if his work ethic is questionable, do you try to make him better, or cut him loose? Great left tackles are hard to find, and when you have one, you almost certainly have to keep him, and pay him. But will the Ravens pay Oher and Gaither franchise tackle salaries? The feeling here is they will only pay one of them, and that one is Oher. But maybe the Ravens want to keep Gaither around, believing that he can reach the potential that Harbaugh believes he possesses.
So: does he stay or does he go?