Alejandro Villanueva

Alejandro Villanueva Retires

One of several roster moves announced on Wednesday by the Ravens included the retirement of left tackle Alejandro Villanueva. The 33-year-old is ending his career after seven seasons. 

[RELATED: Release Candidate: Alejandro Villanueva]

The veteran signed a two-year deal worth up to $14MM in Baltimore last offseason. That came after six seasons spent with the Steelers, a span which included back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2017 and 2018. A late starter in terms of his football career due to Army service, he established himself as a durable, consistent blindside protector in Pittsburgh.

He began to show signs of slowing down the later stages of his time with the Steelers, however. That opened up the possibility of him transitioning to right tackle, which was the expectation when he joined the Ravens. Due to Ronnie Stanley‘s ankle injury not healing as expected, though, he required a second straight season-ending surgery. That pushed Villanueva back to his more comfortable position.

Unfortunately, Villanueva was a member of an offensive front which struggled throughout the campaign in Baltimore. He played over 1,200 snaps, as availability wasn’t a concern. However, PFF credits him with 11 penalties committed and nine sacks allowed, leading to an overall grade of 65.2. Despite the other year remaining on his deal, then, many felt his first year in Charm City would be his last.

The news saves the Ravens $6MM in cap space, while leaving $3.25MM on the books in dead money. Stanley is still under contract long-term, and the team has been optimistic about his ability to fully heal in time for the 2022 season. The other tackles currently on the roster are Ja’Wuan James, who missed all of last season with a torn Achilles, and Patrick Mekariwho has emerged as a key utility linemen, filling in as needed at multiple positions.

While the Ravens will move forward looking to add at least some tackle depth either in free agency next week or the draft next month, Villanueva will end a celebrated NFL career that made him one of the most well-respected players in the league.

Release Candidate: Ravens OT Alejandro Villanueva

In the week before the 2021 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens gave in to the wishes of Pro Bowl offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and traded him away to the Chiefs. This trade left a hole on the Ravens’ offensive line opposite All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley. To address this issue, the Ravens signed Alejandro Villanueva, a free agent whom the Steelers felt ready to move on from

After not falling in love with any of the tackles the Draft had to offer at their position in the early rounds, Baltimore opted for a stopgap solution, signing Villanueva to a two-year deal worth $14MM. Villanueva had performed admirably over his sevens years in Pittsburgh, but was never really considered an elite tackle. His best years saw him make consecutive Pro Bowls in the 2017 and 2018 NFL seasons.

As a Raven, Villanueva did his job, and then was asked to do more. After four years of starting at left tackle as a Steeler, Villanueva struggled initially when asked to fill in at right tackle. He got to go back to his more natural position after ankle surgery sidelined Stanley for the all but one game of the 2021 season.

Villanueva had an up and down year. Often Villanueva’s age showed during some rough outings, but the 33-year-old showed some resiliency, playing through some discomfort knowing that another absence for the injury-devastated Ravens could spell disaster. He seemed to find his footing with time, though, playing a pretty good stretch of football to end the season.

But was Villanueva’s performance in 2021 worthy of a $9.25MM cap hit in 2022? Likely not. The Ravens will hope for a strong return for Stanley and they signed Ja’Wuan James to a low $9MM, two-year contract knowing that he likely would be out with a torn Achilles tendon for much of the 2021 season. The likeliest scenario sees Baltimore cutting Villanueva loose to rely on a combination of Stanley and James to bookend the offensive line. The Ravens also recently signed utility offensive lineman Patrick Mekari to a three-year extension. The former undrafted free agent has started at all three offensive line positions for Baltimore and could continue to fill in at right tackle until the next franchise tackle shows up.

Baltimore could also opt to address the position in the 2022 NFL Draft. While, with the 14th overall pick, the Ravens are not in a position to take one of the Draft’s more exciting tackle prospects like NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu or Alabama’s Evan Neal, if Mississippi State’s Charles Cross were to fall to Baltimore, the Ravens, who are known for drafting for value over fit, would likely find it hard to pass on Cross’s potential. Cross, who ranks as the 8th best Draft prospect on The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s Top 100, impresses many evaluators, but, reportedly, hasn’t convinced the entire league that he’s a top ten draft pick. If the Ravens were to trade back later into the first round, another common move by the draft-savvy franchise, they could find smaller school prospects like Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning or Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann falling into their laps. They could even wait until their second-round or third-round selections come up and opt to take a flyer on Minnesota’s massive Daniel Faalele or Ohio State’s Nicholas Petit-Frere, respectively.

Regardless, most paths that make sense for Baltimore don’t entail the team stomaching a $9.25MM cap hit for a tackle that struggled much of the year for them. Turning 34 at the beginning of the 2022 season, Villanueva could save the Ravens the trouble and simply retire. Whether retired or released, it wouldn’t be a surprise if we don’t see Villanueva in purple and black next season.

Dolphins Considered Alejandro Villanueva, Rick Wagner, Dennis Kelly For RT Job

The Dolphins have a few young offensive linemen in place to start, but they have multiple veterans vying for jobs as well. Miami recently considered adding at least one other veteran blocker.

Prior to the draft, the Dolphins spoke with longtime Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva about a potential right tackle role,’s Jeremy Fowler notes. The team also held discussions with veteran right tackle Ricky Wagner, whom the Packers released ahead of free agency, and 2020 Titans right tackle starter Dennis Kelly.

These discussions centered on moving Robert Hunt to guard, where the Dolphins believe the 2020 second-round pick can be a Pro Bowler, Fowler adds. However, the draft may have changed the organization’s plans here. Miami drafted Liam Eichenberg out of Notre Dame in Round 2. Eichenberg played left tackle primarily for the Fighting Irish, starting three seasons there, but is viewed as a better fight on the right side. With Tua Tagovailoa being a lefty, Eichenberg would retain a blindside role as a pro.

Hunt started 11 games as a rookie, primarily playing right tackle. He started at guard as an underclassman at Louisiana but played right tackle as a junior and senior. Pro Football Focus viewed Hunt as a below-average tackle last season, grading him just outside the top 50 at the position. Miami rosters multiple veterans with versatile NFL pasts as well, in Jesse Davis and D.J. Fluker.

Villanueva opted to sign with the Ravens shortly after the draft; the six-year Pittsburgh left tackle starter is set to take over Baltimore’s right tackle job. Kelly participated in the Broncos’ brigade of right tackle workouts this week, but Denver chose Bobby Massie and Cameron Fleming from those. The Titans released Kelly during the legal tampering period; he spent the past five seasons in Tennessee.

Wagner, the Packers’ starting right tackle last season, is expected to retire, Fowler adds. While the former Ravens and Lions right tackle has not announced any retirement plans, this was believed to be a consideration when the Packers cut him three months ago. Wagner, 31, has made 96 pro starts.

Ravens To Sign Alejandro Villanueva

The Ravens will sign Alejandro Villanueva to a two-year deal, according to a source who spoke with’s Jeremy Fowler (Twitter link). The contract is worth up to $14MM with $8MM fully guaranteed (Twitter link via’s Ian Rapoport). 

Villanueva will replace Orlando Brown Jr. following their huge draft week trade. Once Ronnie Stanley is healthy, the Ravens will slot the former Steeler at right tackle.

The Ravens have long been connected to Villanueva. Trading Brown to the Chiefs pretty much sealed the deal, but the Ravens waited until after May 3 to avoid losing ground in the compensatory pick formula. Now, they’re still projected to earn a pair of fourth-round comp picks in 2022 for losing Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in free agency.

Villanueva was never considered an elite left tackle, but he usually did an okay job of protecting Ben Roethlisberger‘s blindside. He’s also been durable, starting all 16 games in each of the past five seasons. He’ll be a key part of the Ravens’ O-Line moving forward, especially since they did not select any linemen in last week’s draft.

Ravens To Wait On Alejandro Villanueva, Justin Houston, Other FAs

The Ravens met with Alejandro Villanueva and Justin Houston recently, but they won’t be signing them or any other free agent this week. Instead, the Ravens are planning to hold off on any additions until May 3 (Twitter link via Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic). 

[RELATED: Ravens Meet With Justin Houston]

By waiting until May 3, the Ravens can make a better assessment of their needs after the draft. That date also marks end of the compensatory pick formula, so the Ravens won’t be penalized for any veteran signings. As it stands, the Ravens are set to earn two fourth-rounders in 2022 based on free agent departures. has played out thus far.

Some believe that the Ravens are targeting Villanueva as an Orlando Brown Jr. replacement. It remains to be seen whether Ravens GM Eric DeCosta will give into his demands, however. Meanwhile, Houston would help Baltimore fill the void on the edge after losing Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue.

Ravens To Host Alejandro Villanueva

Free agent tackle Alejandro Villanueva is set to meet with the Ravens this week (Twitter link via’s Ian Rapoport). The Steelers haven’t shown much interest in bringing him back, but they could wind up seeing him a couple of times in 2021. 

Villanueva has spent the last seven years with the Steelers. For much of that span, the Steelers’ offensive line was viewed as a strength. However, things declined over the last couple of years as the unit got older. The departure of offensive line coach Mike Munchak may have also been a factor.

Villanueva was never considered an elite left tackle, but he usually did an okay job of protecting Ben Roethlisberger‘s blindside. He’s also been durable, starting all 16 games in each of the past five seasons.

The Ravens are currently projected to start the returning Ronnie Stanley at left tackle with Orlando Brown Jr. on the right side. However, after performing well in Stanley’s stead last year, Brown says he wants to stay at LT. If Brown forces a trade, Villanueva could be considered for the starting lineup. Of course, the Ravens prefer to keep Brown and employ someone like Villanueva as a backup.


Washington Looking To Add Left Tackle

Trent Williams last suited up for Washington in 2018. The team has not replaced the perennial Pro Bowler with a long-term option, but that will be the goal going into the draft.

Washington will look to add a new starting left tackle, with John Keim of noting the team believes it can do so in the first three rounds of this draft. While Washington should be on the radar for a quarterback trade-up, the team sticking at No. 19 and drafting a tackle or trading down and selecting one soon after appears to be firmly in play.

Cornelius Lucas and Geron Christian split time there last season, and Pro Football Focus graded Lucas as a top-25 tackle over the course of the season. Washington has Lucas signed through 2021, with the former UDFA agreeing to a two-year, $3.8MM deal in 2020. Washington only used the 29-year-old blocker as an eight-game starter last season; Christian started six games. PFF graded the latter 60th among tackles. The team drafted Saahdiq Charles in last year’s fourth round, though Keim notes it views the LSU product as a tackle or guard. Charles played one game last season.

While Williams battled myriad injuries as his Washington career waned, the team did not have to worry about adding at this spot. Ron Rivera has since said the O-line is a priority. If Washington either trades up for a passer or does not end up with a tackle fairly early, the team could look to longtime Steelers starter Alejandro Villanueva. However, Washington will not consider the veteran until after the draft, Keim adds.

Beyond Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater, Scouts Inc. grades Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins and Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw as first-round prospects. The likes of Jalen Mayfield (Michigan), Liam Eichenberg (Notre Dame) and Texas’ Samuel Cosmi profile as possible second-round selections. Stanford’s Walker Little once loomed as a potential first-round prospect, but his stock has dropped due to a season-ending injury in Week 1 of the 2019 campaign and the fact that he opted out of the 2020 season.

Steelers Likely To Move On From Alejandro Villanueva?

The Steelers lost long-time center Maurkice Pouncey to retirement today, and that might not be the only major change coming to their offensive line. Ed Bouchette of The Athletic writes that he believes the Steelers “are ready to move on from” left tackle Alejandro Villanueva

Villanueva is set to become a free agent in March, and Bouchette doesn’t think Pittsburgh will want to pay him. If they do let him walk, it’ll end a seven-year run with the franchise for Villanueva. He’s had an unlikely path to the NFL, graduating from Army in 2010 and then serving in Afghanistan before signing with the Eagles in 2014. He didn’t make the team but was signed to the Steelers’ practice squad shortly after, and ended up starting ten games in 2015.

After that he was a full-time and durable starter, starting all 16 games in each of the past five seasons. He’s never been elite at protecting Ben Roethlisberger‘s blindside, but has always been solid and respectable nonetheless. Already 32 because of his time overseas, it’ll be very interesting to see what the free agent market for him looks like.

There will be plenty of teams looking for tackle help, and he’ll almost certainly be starting for somebody next year. The offensive line was for many years a huge strength of these Steelers teams, but it had started to decline the past couple years as they got older and after highly regarded offensive line coach Mike Munchak left for Denver.

Things got even worse in 2020, and it looks like the unit could be headed for a complete revamp this offseason. Roethlisberger will be back for one more year, but change is on the way in Pittsburgh.

Steelers Rework Alejando Villanueva’s Deal

The Steelers have created a bit of extra salary cap space by restructuring left tackle Alejandro Villanueva‘s contract, according to Jeremy Fowler of (Twitter link).

Villanueva had been scheduled to collect a $3MM base salary and a $3MM roster bonus in 2018, but the majority of that money has now been converted into a signing bonus. Given that Villanueva’s roster bonus was due on Saturday, the third day of the 2018 league year, Pittsburgh had to act now to avoid that figure hitting their cap immediately. All told, the Steelers will create nearly $4MM in cap room, per Fowler.

Villanueva, who has been the Steelers’ left tackle for the better part of three seasons, inked a four-year, $24MM extension last summer, so he’s under contract through the 2020 campaign. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, had been projected to be over the cap in 2018, but they’ve since reworked Antonio Brown‘s deal and will release Mike Mitchell and William Gay in other cost-cutting measures.

Extra Points: Redskins, Reed, Gruden, Texans, Fuller

The latest from around the NFL:

  • Redskins coach Jay Gruden says “nothing earth-shattering” came from Jordan Reed‘s visit to see a specialist on his toe (Twitter link via Mike Jones of The Washington Post). The team is not publicly discussing Reed’s timetable for a return, but if the comment is to be taken at face value, then that could be an overall good sign for the tight end.
  • Jon Gruden is looking to slow down talk of a return to coaching. “I don’t foresee myself coaching again anytime soon,” the former Super Bowl-winning coach and current color commentator said (Twitter link via Roy Cummings of FanRag Sports). Comments by Gruden back in July seemed to hint at different plans.
  • Texans wide receiver Will Fuller broke his collarbone during practice on Wednesday, sources tell Adam Schefter and Sarah Barshop of (on Twitter). At this time, there is no timetable for Fuller’s recovery. Fuller, the team’s 2016 first round pick, is expected to reprise his role as a deep threat to take defensive pressure off of DeAndre Hopkins. If he misses significant time, it could be a major setback for the Houston offense. Braxton Miller and Jaelen Strong can be expected to see increased roles if Fuller is out, but the Texans could also look into adding additional depth.
  • Dolphins seventh round wide receiver Isaiah Ford has suffered a setback that may end up costing him a spot on the 53-man roster. Ford has meniscus damage that will require surgery, Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald writes, and depending on the extent of the tear, he’ll either miss the remainder of training camp or potentially the entire season. Lately, Ford has been gaining traction as a backup possibility in the slot.
  • Alejandro Villanueva‘s new four-year, $24MM deal with the Steelers has base salaries of $1.5MM, $3MM, $5MM, and $5MM, Jeremy Fowler of tweets. The remaining $9.5MM in the deal comes in the form of signing and roster bonuses.