The one thing that the Ravens would need to know from Jared Gaither is something that he can’t possible tell them when they sit down to talk on Wednesday.
The Ravens need to know if they can count on Gaither to both practice and play in games for them during the 2011 season if they are going to re-sign him. That’s impossible to know in February when Gaither is coming off a year lost to a foot injury that may have resulted from his showing up at camp in poor shape as a result of back problems and unhappiness with the lack of a contract extension.
The injury problems are bad enough, but the questions about his work ethic raised by last summer’s issues have made it hard for the Ravens to put a full level of trust into Gaither. That explains why a Ravens official told Jamison Hensley of the Baltimore Sun that the chances of Gaither returning for another season were “slim.”
If Gaither does leave, the Ravens will have a big hole on the offensive line. Michael Oher was less effective as a left tackle this season than he was as a rookie on the right side, although that move was planned before Gaither’s injury. Marshal Yanda took over on the right and did okay while simultaneously making it clear he was a better fit at guard. The struggles of the offensive line were fingered as a big reason for Baltimore’s offensive slowdown down the stretch of the regular season, which means the team needs to be sure about the direction they take heading into next year.
The labor uncertainty might actually wind up helping the two sides find a common ground as a short offseason would hamper the Ravens’ ability to replace Gaither with a rookie or a free agent from outside the organization. A lack of trust is a lot to overcome, however, and it would be a major stumbling block to any discussion of a long-term contract with the Ravens.