When the Ravens convinced free-agent guard Evan Mathis to extend his Thursday visit overnight, they hoped he wouldn't leave Baltimore without signing their contract offer.
But on Friday afternoon, when Mathis stepped on an airplane destined for his home in Arizona, they knew there was a decent chance he wouldn't be flying back. While in Arizona, Mathis decided to re-sign with the Philadelphia Eagles, instead of joining the Ravens.
Shortly after 3 p.m. Saturday, the 30-year-old publicly revealed his decision on Twitter.
“To all the Eagles fans who offered me various food and incentives to return... I've come to collect. #FLY”
Within the hour, the Eagles officially announced they had agreed to terms on a five-year deal reportedly worth $25 million with Mathis, who is considered the top remaining guard in free agency. Meanwhile, the Ravens were left scrambling for another replacement for Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs, who signed a five-year deal with the New Orleans Saints on Thursday.
After the Ravens finished tied for 12th in the NFL last season in sacks allowed (33) and were tied for 12th in average yards per carry (4.3), general manger Ozzie Newsome said bolstering the offensive line would be a top offseason priority.
Friday, the Ravens ensured reliable veteran center Matt Birk and left tackle Bryant McKinnie would be back in Baltimore in 2012.
But five days into free agency, there is a sizable void at left guard after they were spurned by Grubbs then Mathis.
Bobbie Williams, Jake Scott, Vernon Carey, Kyle Kosier, Robert Gallery, and former Raven Jason Brown, who was released by the St. Louis Rams this week, are among the top available interior linemen —but each would represent a drop-off from Mathis.
The Ravens also have expressed interest in offensive tackle Eric Winston, but the Kansas City Chiefs announced Saturday they signed the lineman.
Mathis started 15 games for the Eagles in 2011, his first season in Philadelphia. The journeyman has played for four teams in his seven NFL seasons, including the Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers, who made him a third-round draft pick in 2005. Mathis had his best season to date playing for the 8-8 Eagles in 2011.
The Ravens offered Mathis a multiyear deal, but he left the Castle without putting pen to paper. After his plane touched down in Arizona on Friday night, he Tweeted a picture of a squeaking raven and a solemn eagle perched facing each other. Fans of both the Ravens and Eagles, intrigued by the image, lobbied Mathis to block for their respective teams.
A day later, Ravens fans who followed Mathis on Twitter ended up being disappointed.
The Ravens are expected to address the offensive line in next month's NFL draft, and it wouldn't be surprising if they signed a veteran lineman before then.
The Ravens also have Justin Boren, who was on their 53-man roster during the playoffs.
Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.