On the first day of free agency last year, the Baltimore Ravens were reeling from the losses of a number of their key players. This year, they’re the ones making a splash by locking up left tackle Eugene Monroe to a five-year deal. The move solidifies the left tackle position on the depth chart moving forward and now general manager Ozzie Newsome can move on with his offseason plan.
The Ravens definitely had backup plans in case they missed out on Monroe, but the contract is tremendous news for the franchise. Baltimore has been looking for a full-time left tackle since Jonathan Ogden retired, and it finally has its man. That has important consequences for when the Ravens take the field in 2014 but also on how Newsome proceeds this offseason.
Let’s start with what Monroe means on the field.
Monroe may not be “elite” at the position with the likes of Joe Thomas and Ryan Clady, but he’s very, very good and is only 26 years old with plenty of room to grow. Over the last three years, he’s demonstrated the talent to be one of the best tackles in the league:
|Monroe's ProFootballFocus Grades|
|Year||Overall Grade||NFL Rank||Out of|
|ProFootballFocus (subscription required)|
Not only is he a bright, young tackle, but the Ravens got terrific value—at least based on the contracts signed by other left tackles that found new homes early in free agency:
|Left Tackles No Longer On the Market|
|Branden Albert||5 years, $46M||$9.2M|
|Roger Saffold||5 years, $42.5M||$8.4M|
|Eugene Monroe||5 years, $37.5M||$7.5M|
|Jared Veldheer||5 years, $35M||$7M|
Monroe has the feet and athleticism to thrive in Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking system, and Joe Flacco has to be a happy man knowing that his blind side will be safe next season. It’s the other sides that Flacco has to worry about with a shoddy offensive line protecting him, which brings us to the next point of conversation—the offseason.
It’s certainly a day for joy and merriment in Baltimore, but there is plenty of work to be done for GM Ozzie Newsome and Co. The Monroe signing doesn’t even fix the offensive line for crying out loud.
Getting the left tackle position sorted out makes Newsome’s to-do list much more manageable but he’ll still need to be his usual calm and calculating self to rebuild the roster with the $15.8 million in cap room he has, according to Brian McFarland of Russell Street Report.
Here are the roster needs as I see them, separated into categories based on how glaring those needs are. “Dire needs” are positions where the Ravens don’t currently have a true starter, while “depth needs” are areas where Baltimore needs to shore up the depth chart (a creative name, I know).
|What the Ravens Need|
|Dire Needs||Depth Needs|
Newsome can safely look to the early rounds of the draft to address wide receiver and offensive tackle since those are two of the deepest positions in the entire draft.
In fact, given the myriad of needs around the depth chart, the rather underwhelming wide receiver free-agent class and the tantalizing crop of receivers set to enter the league in May, it would be surprising to see Newsome sign a free agent at the position—despite reports of the Ravens being interested in Julian Edelman, Emmanuel Sanders—per Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun—and Steve Smith, as noted by Eric Edholm of Yahoo! Sports.
Regardless, the key is that the Ravens have peace of mind and flexibility now that Monroe is on board. Without Monroe, Newsome may have been forced to reach for a left tackle in the first round or overpay a lower-caliber player on the open market.
Without a left tackle, it seemed as though there were too many roster holes for the front office to plug effectively. Now, it’s a more manageable puzzle for Newsome to sort through, with targets in free agency and the draft.
It still remains to be seen how the Ravens will round out their roster, but the Monroe signing was an important first domino to fall in free agency. With Ozzie Newsome making the decisions, it's a safe bet that things are looking up in Baltimore.
Shehan Peiris is B/R's Lead Featured Columnist covering the Baltimore Ravens and a co-host of Ravens Central Radio, a weekly podcast on the Pro Football Central radio network that focuses on all things Ravens-related. For breaking news, roster evaluation, draft analysis and links to the latest episodes of Ravens Central Radio, follow me on Twitter:
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