Earlier reports during the past few days painted the contract negotiations between tackle Eugene Monroe and the Baltimore Ravens as bleak, suggesting that the discussion had reached an impasse over how many millions per season he was worth.
Monroe is reportedly seeking $10 million per season as arguably the top free agent tackle on the market, with a number of tackle-needy teams having already inquired about his services, and one source even went so far as to say that it was “likely” Monroe would be donning a uniform other than purple in 2014.
Bouts of optimism seem to have struck both parties over the past 48 hours, however, as Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun reported last night that the Ravens are still maintaining an open dialog with the 26-year-old and remain hopeful that a long-term deal could be reached before Tuesday, the beginning of free agency.
The Ravens traded away their fourth- and fifth-round selections in the 2014 NFL draft to the Jacksonville Jaguars during the 2013 season after left tackle Bryant McKinnie displayed an inability to recapture the form that he displayed during Baltimore’s Super Bowl run the prior season.
McKinnie was then offloaded to the Miami Dolphins for a conditional late-round draft pick in order to help replace what was lost along the offensive line through the Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito situation.
The Dolphins are reportedly among the teams that are most likely to go after Monroe should he actually hit free agency tomorrow, as McKinnie never panned out any better for Miami in 2013 than he did in Baltimore.
Being able to retain Monroe would be a huge victory for the Ravens, as their offensive line has dramatically corroded over the last few seasons, losing Ben Grubbs in free agency and Matt Birk to retirement.
McKinnie’ surprising success during the postseason stretch proved an aberration, while second-year guard/tackle Kelechi Osemele found himself under the knife due to a back injury by mid-season last year. Michael Oher is only adequate at right tackle and can be a lightning rod of penalties at times.
Marshal Yanda is a Pro Bowl guard, but 2013 was not his best year. Monroe was demonstrably the Ravens’ best offensive lineman, and perhaps their best player on the entire team, excelling in both pass protection and run blocking.
Should the Ravens not be able to sign Monroe, they will likely attempt to target one of the other top free agent tackles, including Branden Albert, Jared Veldheer, Rodger Saffold, and Anthony Collins. Otherwise, barring a draft pick, they will likely be forced to move either Oher or Osemele to the blind side. Both are better suited for the right side. Which just goes to emphasis how much of a priority it is for the Ravens to get Monroe signed today.