Birk's willingness to return could benefit Ravens

I have no specific information to back this up, but I'm guessing that when the Ravens' season ended in January, team officials expected center Matt Birk to opt for retirement.

Birk is now 35 years old, his contract with the Ravens expired after the 2011 campaign and he's dealt with knee trouble over the last few years. He had said that retirement this offseason was an option, and this seemed like a decent time for him to step away from football and spend more time with his family, which now includes a whopping six children.

But after thinking things over for the last few weeks, Birk now says he wants to return. According to reports, the veteran center's agent has informed the Ravens that Birk is open to playing again in 2012, and apparently, the Ravens have interest in bringing the six-time Pro Bowler back.

Assuming the two sides are able to reach an agreement on a contract, Birk's presence will help the Ravens fill one of their larger voids this offseason.

If Birk and left guard Ben Grubbs (who is expected to leave via free agency) both were to depart, the Ravens would have needed to put a lot of focus on upgrading the interior of the offensive line through the draft and free agency over the next few months. Should Birk return, that need isn't as dramatic.

Would Birk remain in the starting lineup? Would the 14-year veteran serve as a backup and mentor for a younger player?

That depends how the Ravens choose to approach the position. But if they bring Birk back into the fold, they'll have far more options than they would if he had chosen to retire.

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