The Ravens solve a major problem on the offensive line, but problems still remain
Ozzie Newsome engineered a major upgrade to the Ravens’ struggling offensive line with a rare, in-season trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars to obtain starting left tackle Eugene Monroe. And he did it without a major impact to this season’s cap number! The Ravens get the Jaguars best offensive lineman, a healthy four-year starter just coming into his prime for the bargain price of $500,000. That’s six figures, not seven. I don’t know how Ozzie pulled this off, but he also talked the Jags into picking up the remainder of Monroe’s contract, to the tune of $2.35 million.
Media reports indicate this was the first in-season trade ever made by Ozzie Newsome, and it was a doozy.
This deal is not without short and long term implications for the team. First, it certainly means that Bryant McKinnie’s days with the Ravens are numbered, perhaps in the single digits. Due to Monroe’s unfamiliarity with the playbook and blocking schemes, McKinnie may start this Sunday in Miami but I fully expect that will be the last time we see #78 starting at left tackle.
Based on his performance this season fans may be justified in saying good riddance to a lineman who treats run blocking like contact dermatitis, but we can’t forget that the insertion of McKinnie at left tackle last year, after Jah Reid’s leg injury necessitated moving Kelechi Osemele to guard, was a major factor in stabilizing the O-line for the Super Bowl run.
Monroe’s signing will help, but not solve, the Ravens’ other problems on the offensive line. It appears that Gino Gradkowski is on a steep learning curve at center. Both Osemele and Marshall Yanda have oddly struggled at times, and Michael Oher has flat lined at right tackle. And our best blocking tight end, Billy Bajema, was cut to make room for Moore.
The Ravens will give up their 4th and 5th round draft choices next year, a more than fair price for a first string “blind side” left tackle. Because the Ravens will receive several compensatory picks due to the losses of Ed Reed, Paul Kruger, and Dannell Ellerbe, they will still retain draft picks in those rounds.
Finally, Monroe is scheduled to be a free agent next year. Since this front office rarely engages in short term thinking, one has to believe that a long term contract to retain Monroe’s services is in the Ravens plans. And the sooner, the better. Other Ravens who hit the open market will be, among others, Dennis Pitta, Arthur Jones, and Ed Dickson.
For the last one don’t say it, I’ll do it for you – good riddance!
While bringing Monroe on board is great for the team short term, signing him for the long haul will have implications for the Ravens’ cap situation since, in addition to our impending free agents, several veterans will get significant salary bumps next year. The cap issue is further complicated by the fact that the NFL is not expected to significantly raise the salary cap until new TV contracts are finalized in 2015.
Ozzie, Eric DeCosta, and Pat Moriarty will have their hands full next offseason.
Where do I start? Time and space won’t allow a complete airing but here goes….Total absence of a running game (Eugene Monroe, here’s hoping you can pull and lead like your HOF predecessor, Jonathan Ogden), injuries and lack of consistent playmakers at wide receiver, lack of a tight end who can hold onto a thrown ball, injuries in the defensive backfield, and a totally unimaginative offensive game plan.
I’m certain all of these issues will eventually be resolved, but the season is now at the quarter pole and the Ravens still have to endure the rest of an imposing schedule; a slate of games against a tough NFC North division featuring three legitimate playoff contenders, and five games within the AFC North – none of which will be easy. I don’t care if Ben Roethlisberger says Pittsburgh is the worst team in the league – they’re still the Steelers. And who would have predicted that the Browns would be 3-2 at this point after trading their best offensive threat? No weak sisters in this division.
The Ravens walked into Ralph Wilson Stadium last week looking for easy pickings and got their heads handed to them by a young, energetic Bills team who were looking to make points against the defending Super Bowl champions. Listening to some of the media bobble heads, I’m surprised that Joe Flacco hasn’t been blamed for the government shutdown and work furlough yours truly is experiencing. I could not imagine Flacco playing any worse, even though two of those five picks bounced off his hands-of-stone receivers to Buffalo defenders. Everything that could have gone wrong on offense did.
Miami fared just as badly if not worse. The Fins and their 3-0 record went to the Crescent City last Monday night and their new, improved defense was taken to the cleaners by Drew Brees and the Saints, 38-17. And It wasn’t that close.
The Ravens have lost four straight regular-season road games despite winning playoff games in Denver and New England last year on their way to the Super Bowl (you can look it up). Miami has won three in a row at home and is looking for its first 4-1 start since 2003. It won’t happen.
Flacco and the offense will rebound and the defense, particularly Elvis and T-Sizzle, will make life miserable for Ryan Tannehill. Ravens to cover and win by a score of…
Ravens 30, Dolphins 17