Raiders’ Osemele feels slighted by ex-team
For guard, playing Ravens is ‘not just another game’
When Oakland Raiders left guard Kelechi Osemele arrives in Baltimore on Saturday, he plans to have dinner with Ravens center Jeremy Zuttah. His agenda for the rest of his trip seems to revolve around making the Ravens regret not being more aggressive in trying to re-sign him this past offseason.
Osemele, who signed a five-year, $58.5 million deal with the Raiders in March after spending four seasons and winning a Super Bowl with the Ravens, didn’t mince words in a conference call with Baltimore- area media Wednesday.
He acknowledged that he was hurt by what he perceived as the Ravens’ low-ball offers to retain him. He mentioned an unidentified Ravens coach with whom he didn’t see eye to eye, and he spoke excitedly about finishing blocks on a couple of his former teammates. He didn’t mention any of them by name but said, “You’ll see Sunday.”
“It’s not just another game,” Osemele said. “You’re going back to your old team and the place that you spent the last four years, and you end up moving across the country somewhere else. You kind of do Sunday, 1 p.m. TV: Ch. 13 Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM Line: Ravens by 3
take it a little personally. It’s going to be an emotional game.”
Osemele, 27, has fit in well with the Raiders, who bring a 2-1 record into Sunday’s game against the Ravens (3-0) at M&T Bank Stadium. The Raiders are second in the league in rushing yards per game, and Osemele’s athletic, mauling, playthrough-the-whistle style has been a welcome addition. Young quarterback Derek Carr has been sacked only twice in three games.
“The Raiders were very upfront about how badly they wanted me and what they felt I can bring to the offensive line,” Osemele said. “We’re really trying to do something with our offensive line.”
The Ravens miss Osemele, who started 51 games for the team from 2012 to 2015, playing three positions along the offensive line. The Ravens’ initial plan was to replace Osemele with John Urschel, but a summer shoulder injury to the third-year offensive lineman and the emergence of rookie fourth-round pick Alex Lewis changed the team’s plans.
Lewis, who started the first three games, is in the concussion protocol, and rookie starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley was seen in the locker room Wednesday with a walking boot. Their statuses — and the struggles of the Ravens run game — will surely spur some second-guessing that the Ravens would have been better off paying Osemele this offseason.
But the Ravens had already signed their other starting guard, Marshal Yanda, to a lucrative contract extension during last season. In Urschel and Ryan Jensen, they had two young offensive linemen with starting experience. With a relatively tight salary cap situation and needs elsewhere, they weren’t in position to get into a bidding war.
Osemele was essentially able to name his price on a free-agent market saturated with teams that had money to spend. Osemele’s $11.7 million average salary is the highest for any guard in the NFL. Yanda, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, averages $7.9 million.
“I have a lot of respect for ‘K.O.’ He was one of my favorite players in the  draft, I can tell you that,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “When he came out, I really wanted him here, and he did not disappoint. He brought to the table all of the things that we like to see in our players and in our offensive linemen.”
However, there seems to be a difference of opinion between the sides regarding how badly the Ravens wanted to keep Osemele. Harbaugh said at the NFL scouting combine in February that the team made a “really aggressive” contract offer to keep Osemele, and the offer “shows a lot of respect for K.O.” Osemele doesn’t see it that way.
“We didn’t get close at all,” Osemele said. “I wasn’t really offered much at all. I pretty much knew right away I was going somewhere else. Some of the things that were being brought back to me, borderline, they can hurt your feelings sometimes.”
Osemele took it even further, saying he knew before the 2015 season that he was likely entering his final year with the organization that took him in the second round out of Iowa State in 2012.
“I talked to Torrey Smith about it and some other guys that ended up leaving and they kind of told me that it might be a situation where Baltimore won’t pay me enough for me to stay, and it’s something that does happen with that organization because they’re able to find so many young players,” Osemele said. “I was prepared for it. There were even some people in the organization that approached me about it and told me about it prior to the year.”
After he signed with the Raiders, Osemele thanked the Ravens and their fans on social media. But, in his introductory conference calls with Raiders reporters, heseemingly took a shot at his former organization, saying it didn’t appreciate building an offensive line. He explained Wednesday that the comment was directed at one coach with whom he had disagreements in Baltimore.
He also made it clear that he has tremendous respect and admiration for the organization, and would like to finish his career in Baltimore.
“I love the city and I love the organization,” he said. “I believe in what they do for the community and what they represent. But I’m somewhere else now. I’m100 percent all-in with the Raiders organization. We’re going to go in there on Sunday and put on a good performance.”
As for his Ravens teammates, Osemele said he’ll have something in store for them, too.
“There’s a few guys, obviously, that it’s going to be fun to finish through [blocks] and play against them in a game,” Osemele said. “You couldn’t really finish through and pancake your own teammates” in practice.
Ravens defensive end Lawrence Guy, who will undoubtedly be lined up across from Osemele at various times Sunday, said he expects no surprises.
“It’s one of those things where you’re like, ‘Hey, I know what I’m going to get,’ ” Guy said. “We’ve practiced against him, we played against him. He’s practiced with us. We know his physicality and he knows our physicality. We’re both going to come out there and we’re going to see who is going to be victorious.”
Raiders guard Kelechi Osemele, left, congratulates running back Latavius Murray for his touchdown run in the second quarter against the Falcons.