Former Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Adrian Ealy has signed with the Denver Broncos, according to the NFL’s official transaction report on November 30, giving the undrafted rookie a new home a week after he was released by the Ravens.
Ealy spent four years at the University of Oklahoma, starting at right tackle for the Sooners for his junior and senior seasons, earning Second-Team All-Big 12 honors in both years. At Oklahoma, Ealy was a solid pass protector who struggled to block on the move, whether it be pulling on a run play or combating a speedy edge rusher.
He was widely expected to be a Day 3 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but was not selected before the draft concluded, giving the Ravens the opportunity to sign him as a free agent. The move was seen as one of the best undrafted free agents signings in the NFL, as the Ravens had a few established offensive tackles on their roster but no clear prospects to play the position in the future.
It seemed like kismet: with Ronnie Stanley set to return from injury and Alejandro Villanueva arriving from Pittsburgh, Ealy would have time to sit and learn behind two Pro Bowl veterans with the potential to work his way into Baltimore’s “long-term plans” at the position.
Unfortunately, neither Ealy’s development nor the Ravens’ situation at offensive tackle went to plan this season, with a suspension and injuries derailing what seemed like a good fit for both player and team.
Suspension Unwinds Strong Start
Ealy impressed observers both at training camp and during his 38 preseason snaps, all at right tackle, especially as a run-blocker. His 90.0 blocking grade from Pro Football Focus led all rookies in the preseason, but he was waived by the Ravens on August 31 during final roster cuts.
He was quickly added to the practice squad after clearing waivers and was touted as a potential depth addition to the roster after Stanley underwent season-ending surgery and Villanueva struggled at right tackle and switched to the left side.
But Ealy was suspended on October 12 for six games, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic, for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing substance policy.
While Ealy was unlikely to play in any of the games that he missed, the suspension also precluded him from continuing his development through practices or workouts at team facilities. The Ravens’ need for roster flexibility led them to release Ealy the day after his suspension ended, with the once-promising prospect departing Baltimore on November 23, eventually signing with the Broncos a week later.
Future OT Prospects for Baltimore
Offensive tackle has frequently been named as the Ravens’ biggest offseason need, with several mock drafts projecting top prospects at the position to be selected by the Ravens in next year’s draft.
Northwestern’s Trevor Penning has been named as one potential target, but Dane Brugler of The Athletic offered Daniel Faalele out of the University of Minnesota, the alma mater of current Ravens rookie wideout Rashod Bateman.
Would Baltimore draft a Gopher in back-to-back first rounds? It’s possible if the Ravens target an offensive tackle late — for a humongous human, as Faalele is a verified 6-foot-8 and 379 pounds with 35-inch arms and 11-inch hands. He is relatively new to football and is still learning how to get the most out of his unique skills, but he moves surprisingly well for his size and his anvil hands thump defenders into tomorrow.
Baltimore’s selection of Ben Cleveland in the third round of this year’s draft indicates their love of massive people-movers on the offensive line, so drafting Faalele would follow that pattern. While the Australian only learned the sport in 2016, he’s rapidly developed into a reliable player in college, and staying at Minnesota for his senior year after opting out of the 2020 NCAA season will go a long way in making sure he’s pro-ready by the start of the 2022 NFL season.