The left guard spot was the only one up for grabs this offseason along the Ravens’ offensive front. A slew of candidates received a look at the left guard spot, but a decision has been made ahead of the season opener.
Head coach John Harbaugh named John Simpson the starter at the LG spot, putting an end to the competition at that position (video link). Simpson represented the most experienced option who took significant reps during training camp and the preseason, especially compared to the other finalist for the gig, sixth-round rookie Malaesala Aumavae-Laula.
It came out shortly before Baltimore’s preseason finale that the left guard battle was down to Simpson and Aumavae-Laula. The latter saw time at both tackle and guard during his time at Oregon, but is viewed as a long-term developmental option. Simpson – who has 21 NFL starts to his name – is, by contrast, much more of a known commodity at this point in his career. The latter will take on first-team duties in 2023 for the first time since he lost a starting role with the Raiders last season.
The Clemson alum started all 17 contests in 2021, and he remained the first choice left guard for the first two games the following season. By December, however, he found himself on waivers with one year remaining on his rookie contract. Simpson earned a PFF grade of 59.5 in 2022, an underwhelming mark which helped explain Vegas’ decision to move on (although it was the highest of his brief NFL career).
Ben Powers excelled at the left guard spot during his walk year last season, pricing himself out of Baltimore in free agency. The former fourth-rounder inked a four-year, $52MM deal with the Broncos, making him part of the team’s major investment project up front. Powers’ absence was first thought to pave the way for 2021 third-rounder Ben Cleveland to ascend to a starting role, and the latter was indeed one of the initial contenders for the role. He underwhelmed in the summer, though, and it was in doubt during roster cutdowns that he would even make the initial 53-man squad.
That will lead to questions about Cleveland’s future with the Ravens beyond 2023. In the meantime, attention will turn toward Simpson’s ability to succeed between former All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley and 2022 first-round center Tyler Linderbaum in his first full year in Baltimore. Replicating Powers’ level of play from last year would go a long way in helping Simpson’s prospects with the Ravens or another team on the open market, while helping the team maintain a strong offensive front.