According to the Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson, the Baltimore Ravens completed an important piece of offseason business, re-signing left tackle Eugene Monroe at the start of the NFL's free-agency period on Tuesday.
Wilson reports that the deal is worth $37.5 million over five years and averages out to $7.5 million per year.
After the long-term contract handed to tight end Dennis Pitta, nothing was of higher priority for the Ravens. Losing Monroe would have dealt a major blow to what was one of the poorest offensive lines in 2013.
According to Football Outsiders, the Ravens' line ranked dead last in run-blocking in 2013 while also giving up 48 sacks on Joe Flacco—a career high for the quarterback.
Monroe was the Ravens' top-performing offensive lineman last season after taking over for Bryant McKinnie in Week 6. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) gave him an overall grade of 24.0. Only guard Marshal Yanda also had a positive overall grade on their line.
|Pro Football Focus' 2013 Grades for Ravens O-Line|
|Player||Position||Overall||Pass Block||Run Block||Sacks||Hits||Hurries|
|via Pro Football Focus (subscription required)|
With fellow tackle Michael Oher also a free agent and PFF ranking center Gino Gradkowski as the worst at his position in 2013, the Ravens desperately needed to retain Monroe's services.
Though Monroe's presence on the line won't magically solve the Ravens' many problems with protecting Joe Flacco and running the ball, it ensures that they won't be in worse shape come the start of the 2014 season.
Improving the line is still a priority for Baltimore, something that can still be achieved during free agency or later in the spring through the draft.
In addition to potentially needing a replacement for Oher, they need to add talent at guard. Kelechi Osemele could return at left guard, but could also potentially play right tackle, meaning that depth is lacking on the line as much as talent was last year.
If the Ravens had lost Monroe in free agency, it would have meant committing either financial resources to another marginal left tackle—ESPN.com reported that the big names at this position were snapped up the minute they entered the market, with Branden Albert signing with Miami and Jared Veldheer joining Arizona—or spending a first-round draft pick on the position.
That would have limited their opportunities to round out the line as well as fill in other positions that need help, like receiver and tight end.
The Ravens lucked into finding a franchise lineman when they traded for Monroe last fall. PFF ranked him as a top-10 left tackle in 2013, having given up just four sacks, three quarterback hits and 17 quarterback hurries on the season.
Wilson reported last week that salary-cap issues nearly cost the Ravens the chance to re-sign him. Luckily, the two sides were able to come to an agreement that allows the team to retain a crucial player and Monroe to have job security on a team that has only missed the postseason once in the last six years.
Monroe himself is happy about his new deal, tweeting on Tuesday:
In speaking with BaltimoreRavens.com, Monroe added, "I'm definitely juiced about it. How couldn't you be?" He noted that he was hoping for a new deal in Baltimore, saying, "We had confidence that things could work out here. And I'm glad they did"
Retaining Monroe is an important first step to the Ravens turning around their disappointing offensive line. This task would have been exponentially more difficult without this deal being done.
It doesn't solve all of their problems, but it does prevent them from having another, bigger one to try to manage alongside the others.