Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Marshal Yanda can rank among all-time best guards with strong finish

Ravens guard Marshal Yanda was selected to his eighth Pro Bowl after last season. Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports

Jamison Hensley ESPN Staff Writer

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Marshal Yanda made certain that he will finish his career with the Baltimore Ravens.

Yanda can put himself in the conversation as one of the NFL's all-time great guards if he adds an exclamation point over the next two seasons.

If Yanda reaches the Pro Bowl in 2019 and 2020, he will total nine trips to the all-star event. Randall McDaniel, Will Shields and Larry Allen would be the only players with more Pro Bowl selections as a guard, according to the Elias Sports Bureau (Bruce Matthews’ 14 Pro Bowls included five as a center).

But it's uncertain whether Yanda will play next season and strengthen a potential Hall of Fame resume.

"You just take it one day at a time," he said. "I’m healthy, I’m feeling really good about playing this fall, and I don’t look any further down the road. I’m worried about playing this fall and playing good football."

Yanda, who will turn 35 in Week 2 of the regular season, has been among the most dominant linemen of his generation. He is the second-best guard in Pro Football Focus' grading history (since 2006).

Known for his toughness and technique, Yanda was a key member of the Ravens' run-heavy offense with quarterback Lamar Jackson. Last season, he led an offensive line that has helped the Ravens produce the NFL's No. 2 rushing attack (141.9 yards per game).

There was concern among Ravens officials that Yanda wasn't returning this year.

Asked recently about the state of the offensive line, owner Steve Bisciotti said, "I’d be much more concerned if our All-Pro decided that he was going to call it a career. I kind of looked at that as our upgrade. I really thought that Marshal was pretty close to maybe deciding that it was a career."

Yanda was entering the final year of his four-year, $32 million contract before agreeing to a one-year contract extension on April 11.

He received an $8 million signing bonus after reducing his 2019 base salary by $5 million (from $7 million to $2 million). His base salary for 2020 is $7 million.

“Whatever happens, we just wanted to make sure I could finish it here, and that’s important to me, just being able to play my entire career here and just taking care of me," Yanda said of the reasoning for the extension. "That was the whole deal there."

A third-round pick in 2007, Yanda has gone from being the 10th offensive lineman drafted in 2007 to becoming one of the best in the league. Known for his powerful run blocking, Yanda has shoved three defenders to single-handedly open a hole. A top-notch pass protector, he regularly allows the fewest sacks at his position.

In 2014, then-offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said Yanda is as good as any offensive lineman he's been around. In 2015, coach John Harbaugh offered a prediction.

"He's just a special human being and a special player," Harbaugh said before adding, "and he's a Hall of Famer some day."

Yanda has built a reputation on being among the league's most durable players. He ranks fifth among active offensive linemen with 151 starts, which tops all guards currently in the NFL.

But recent injuries started to take their toll on Yanda. He missed nearly all of the 2017 season with a broken ankle, and then began last year's training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list after having an offseason procedure on his shoulder.

“Just with the injuries that I have had, last year was a wait-and-see kind of deal, one week at a time, one game at a time, and I just didn’t know how my body was going to hold up," Yanda said. "So, I was prepared, if I was going to end the season on injured reserve, then I was probably going to hang it up, just because you don’t want to keep pushing your body too far."

Yanda played all 16 games and reached the Pro Bowl for the seventh straight season in which he has played at least half a season. His 1,108 snaps were the second-most in the NFL.

Just as important, Yanda finished the season healthy.

"The best thing is that I didn’t have to recover from an offseason surgery, so I didn’t have to rehab this offseason," Yanda said. "I could lift, and I could do some shoulder maintenance, but I didn’t have to get any range of motion back. I didn’t have to do rehab, so that was a big offseason for me of not having to do that. I could get stronger and feel good about it."

Yanda has a good relationship with Eric DeCosta, who took over for Ozzie Newsome as the Ravens general manager. Their connection dates back to the days eading up to the 2007 draft, when DeCosta made it known that Baltimore needed Yanda's grit on the team.

During this year's mandatory minicamp, Yanda and DeCosta were seen chatting a couple of times on the sideline. Yanda declined to say whether he approached DeCosta about wanting the extension that he ultimately received.

“Let’s just say, I wanted to be here. Eric wanted me to be here, and that was the main goal, what was accomplished," Yanda said. "So, I’m really happy to be able to get to finish it here.”

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