The Baltimore Ravens' offense gelled just in time for their Super Bowl run last season, right after veteran Bryant McKinnie took over at left tackle, pushing Michael Oher to the right side and rookie Kelechi Osemele to guard.
They'll all try to revive that magic again in 2013, now that McKinnie has opted to re-sign in Baltimore. The team announced the move Thursday afternoon.
And it came as a surprise. McKinnie had been engaged in talks with the tackle-needy San Diego Chargers, and Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reported that the Dolphins had offered McKinnie a deal and Dallas had "made (an) inquiry" about the 33-year-old lineman.
McKinnie, who started all but four games from 2003-11 (the first eight years of that stretch with Minnesota) did not start a single game during the 2012 regular season. Instead, Osemele start at right tackle and Michael Oher on the left.
An injury to starting guard Marshal Yanda, however, forced the Ravens to shuffle things up front, which led in turn to McKinnie grabbing a starting spot.
McKinnie then played well enough in the postseason to be considered one of the top available tackles on the free-agent market this offseason. It's not hard to see why San Diego, Miami or Dallas might have been interested, either. All of those teams likely will enter training camp with unsettled tackle situations -- that's despite the Chargers drafting D.J. Fluker in Round 1, the Dolphins nabbing Dallas Thomas in Round 3 and the Cowboys returning Tyron Smith and Doug Free.
Fluker projects as a right tackle or guard, while Thomas may wind up on the interior of Miami's line. In all cases, McKinnie would have represented an upgrade on the depth chart, even if McKinnie may no longer be able to withstand the rigors of starting a full 16-game schedule.
But McKinnie never closed the door on returning to Baltimore, nor the Ravens ever fully invest in moving on to other options. The Ravens' Plan B for 2013 would have left them with more or less the same line they utilized throughout last regular season. They'll be more than satisfied to turn back to Plan A. After all, why mess with the formula up front that helped bring home a Super Bowl?