How the Ravens ultimately deal with Eugene Monroe by the close of business today will be very interesting.
Monroe is generally considered to be an above average left tackle, ranking 12th in the NFL according to the drill down analytical machine called Pro Football Focus.
Is Monroe deserving of the elite label that comes with the franchise tag?
If the Ravens tag Monroe he’ll gobble up $11.654M of the team’s available cap space. That could handcuff Ozzie Newsome a bit as he tries to fill holes at the positions of center, wide receiver, right tackle, linebacker and safety.
If the Ravens allow Monroe to hit the open market it’s quite possible that an area of extreme weakness in 2013 (offensive line) could grow even weaker if the former Jaguar adds “former Raven” to his resume. Monroe is generally considered the best available free agent offensive tackle.
A strategy the Ravens could employ is to tag Monroe to block his availability, let the market simmer down and then negotiate in good faith. If the reported stalemate continues the Ravens could rescind the tag and add the $11.654M back to their cap availability.
The trump card in such a strategy however, belongs to Monroe. If he signs the franchise tag offer, the Ravens will be unable to rescind it.
As you can see, it’s quite the dilemma.
Chances are the Ravens are using the deal signed last year by the 2008 first overall pick Jake Long with the St. Louis Rams as a benchmark. Long’s deal was for four years and $34 million that included $16M guaranteed. Pro Football Focus graded Long out as the league’s 8th best tackle in 2013.
But 2013 was a year that had fairly flat growth in the salary cap. This year teams have a $133M cap figure and that could drive up contract values.
Clearly the Ravens are in a tough spot but the best thing they can do is to not set the market for Monroe. They should also avoid using the tag. Let’s not forget the Ravens were (5-6) with Monroe at left tackle – (3-2) with Bryant McKinnie manning the blind side.
The Ravens need to allow the market to set Monroe’s value and have Plan B ready if said value fails Ozzie’s “right player, right price” test.