Let the Bryant McKinnie soap opera begin

It will be interesting to see how this drama plays out; again

OK, so now that the Ravens have re-signed left offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie to a two-year contract, the real drama begins.

We're starting the official McKinnie Watch here.

When will he report to training camp? How much will he weigh? When will he be in condition to play his first game? Will his annual visit to coach John Harbaugh's doghouse last 16 games like last season, or will McKinnie not dog it this season?

With McKinnie, there is always theater. Just about everybody around town wanted the Ravens to upgrade at the tackle position in the offseason, but when that didn't happen in the NFL draft , the Ravens had virtually no choice but to bring back the often-disgruntled giant left tackle.

They probably wanted to wait and explore more options, or at least sweat McKinnie down a few pounds and several hundred thousand dollars, but they couldn't wait after Miami and San Diego started pursuing McKinnie, an unrestricted free agent.

In the big picture, it was a good move. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh had been blowing a lot of smoke about moving second-year player Kelechi Osemele from left guard to left tackle to start training camp, but they were fooling no one.

Osemele had been consistent about not wanting to play tackle and even he questioned if he had quick enough feet to play outside. Where there is no desire, there is only failure.

So, it made sense to bring back McKinnie.

In his two years in Baltimore, he has played reasonably well. In 2011, an out-of-shape McKinnie was solid even though his run blocking was a liability.

Last season, when he started every game in the postseason, Joe Flacco was a new quarterback, throwing 11 touchdowns. The Ravens offense averaged 410.3 yards a game.

McKinnie is a difference-maker. The problem is that we don't know which McKinnie we're going to see. I don't expect to see him at OTAs or the team's offseason conditioning program.

Those are way off his radar screen.

But I do expect to see McKinnie pulling the same stuff as last offseason when he kept tweeting about his new diet and how he was in superb condition working in the heat of Miami.

I expect to see him arrive about a week or two before the season starts and fail the conditioning run. I can see the Ravens stashing him away from the media for about a week, letting McKinnie ride a stationary bike in the training room to get his cardio work in. And then may two or three weeks into the regular season, McKinnie might be ready to go.

It's understandable.

The Ravens thought a lot of teams would stay away from McKinnie because of recurring weight and conditioning problems, and they thought they might be able to get him on the cheap. You know — right player, right price.

But it didn't work out that way. McKinnie really wanted to stay in Baltimore. He likes the city, the fans and his teammates.

Harbaugh would have preferred not to have to play these silly mind games again, but at least he knows how to deal with him. The Ravens were smart to load his contract with incentives. If he can return to form early in the regular season, the Ravens should have one of the best offensive lines in the game. They have two young, outstanding guards in Osemele and Marshal Yanda and two solid tackles in McKinnie and Michael Oher, both of whom pride themselves on being physical.

The only question is at center, where second-year player Gino Gradkowski replaces Matt Birk, who retired. Birk will be missed but Gradkowski will eventually become a good center. He has quick feet and absorbs everything about the game.

The current starting lineup certain is better than having Osemele at left tackle, and either Jah Reid or Ramon Harewood at guard.

Instead, the Ravens appear to be set. They've got their skill players in place and the offensive line appears to be in shape. Well, at least four out of five.

McKinnie?

We'll have to wait and see, sometime in July.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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