Just days after Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh ripped into the team's offensive line, calling the pass protection "unacceptable" and adding that "the whole O-line is disappointing right now," the Ravens have made a move to improve that part of their game.
Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports the Ravens have traded for Jacksonville Jaguars left tackle Eugene Monroe, potentially signaling the benching of incumbent starter Bryant McKinnie for the second straight season. Ryan O'Halloran of the Florida Times-Union confirms the Jaguars will receive Baltimore's fourth and fifth-round 2014 draft picks for Monroe.
Last year, Michael Oher displaced McKinnie at left tackle, while Kelechi Osemele worked as right tackle. McKinnie didn't get his job back until the postseason, when the line needed to be reshuffled for the team's playoff run and because of guard Jah Reid's late-season injury.
So far this year, McKinnie has given up one sack and two quarterback hits as well as 11 hurries, tied for the most among Baltimore's offensive linemen with center Gino Gradkowski. However, he's also been one of the Ravens' worst run-blockers, with a -5.6 grade from Pro Football Focus (subscription required) and is the third-worst offensive tackle in the run game right now.
The only positive run-blocking grade that McKinnie has had this season was in Week 4, when the Ravens ran the ball only nine times. In contrast, Monroe has had only one exceptionally bad run-blocking game this year, in Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Jacksonville has also not been running the ball much this year, averaging 21 runs per game, which ranks it 26th in the league in attempts. The Ravens haven't been running all that much either, with an average of 24.2 runs per game, but the hope is that Monroe can help them increase that number and the yardage they get from it.
When looked at individually and not in the context of the Jaguars' overall 28th-ranked offensive line, Monroe is a clear upgrade over McKinnie. Further, with Monroe in a contract year, the Ravens can either opt to re-sign him in 2014 or look for other options via free agency or the draft if he doesn't impress this year.
Presently, the Ravens rank 28th in rushing yards per game, at 64. They have only 256 rushing yards on the season, are averaging a mere 2.6 yards per rush and have only three touchdowns from the run game. Last year, Baltimore averaged 123.5 rushing yards per game.
There was no way the Ravens could continue with the same offensive line and hope for different results. The Ravens rely heavily on their run game; without it, quarterback Joe Flacco throws 50 passes, as he did in the team's Week 4 loss to the Buffalo Bills, and that's not the kind of player he is.
The Ravens are at their best when they field a balanced offense, which means they needed to find a way to quickly boost their run game. Trading for Monroe is certainly a good start, even if it required them to move a few of their favorite assets—draft picks.
Signing Monroe means that the Ravens will have to make a roster move—they currently have 53 men on their active roster—as well as juggle their salary cap. Right now, Monroe is on the final year of his contract with the Jaguars and owed $3.8 million on the year. The Ravens, however, have just $1.213 million in cap space presently.
Regardless of who they release and, potentially, whose contract they restructure to make this deal work, the Ravens made a smart decision by trading for Monroe. He's an upgrade over McKinnie in both run-blocking and pass protection, especially now that he'll be joining an all-around better offensive line than he worked with in Jacksonville.
Though the draft picks would have been helpful to the Ravens, general manager Ozzie Newsome will likely find a way to maximize the value of the picks they have remaining. Right now, the goal is to improve the run game and take pressure off of Flacco. Monroe's presence should do just that.