The Ravens Don’t Franchise Monroe, So What Now?

Ravens O Linemen

Well first I should say that I’m sorry about my long absence from writing for the site, as I have been pursuing another favorite pursuit of mine – acting – and you can find me playing Mr. Hyde in the Vagabond Players production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde through March 30 – to that regard.

Now, to the Ravens: the indefatigable TL was dead-on in saying that applying the franchise tag on lineman Eugene Monroe was a bad idea for the team. Monroe’s not an elite offensive lineman – certainly an above-average one- but not elite, and that is what the franchise tag’s salary cap-crunching pay is meant for – the cream of the crop.

Dennis Pitta, Joe Flacco’s target de rigueur IS an elite tight end, a mismatch machine who helped the Ravens win a Super Bowl by being, like now-re-signed 49ers WR Anquan Boldin, a go-to guy.

But the Ravens solved that problem with a long-term deal to keep Pitta a Raven, keep best-friend Flacco happy, and keep a critical element of the Ravens offense a part of the team.

But doesn’t it also seem like the Ravens are back to the offensive drawing board? According to Aaron Wilson of The Sun, the sides were “far apart” as the franchise tag deadline approached on snowy March 3rd and with multiple teams in need of reliable and young offensive tackles, a bidding war might ensue.

The Ravens are approaching the 2014 season with a number of major question marks on the OL particularly after coming off a terrible, injury-marred 2013 season. Michael Oher is a free agent, and while the Ravens can talk about re-signing him, winning a potential bidding war for his services will be an obstacle, and Oher surely will test the market.

Kelechi Osemele is coming back off injury, guard Marshal Yanda (the former Pro Bowler) is coming off a subpar season (which still earned him a Pro Bowl slot albeit), and center Gino Gradkowski is coming off a season in which, at times, he was simply pushed around by physical D-lineman. The other linemen-by-committee including Rick Wagner and AQ Shipley have been inconsistent.

So what are the Ravens’ options?

Other than the draft – where they have the 17th pick – where a good, soon-to-be starting OL may or may not still be available – the Ravens have other options in free agency.

NFL Network, curiously, ranks Monroe as the top available free agent – ahead of Brandon Albert of the Chiefs and Jared Veldheer of the Raiders. Alex Mack, the Browns free agent center, is listed as the top center but that seems more a factor of his young age – 26 – than strictly playing ability.

However, there may be bargains to be had at multiple positions: Zane Beadles of the Broncos is a versatile OL who has playoff experience and AFC experience protecting Peyton Manning. He might be a find for the Ravens’ budget.

Jon Asamoah is a solid player who played alongside Albert on the Chiefs and helped Andy Reid’s unit become a powerhouse in the running game helping open up holes for Jamal Charles.

Though, as the NFL Network points out, Asamoah lost his starting job late last season, he is a strong player whose value might have dipped a little if teams wonder if the Chiefs know something they did not.

If Osemele can come back healthy, and Yanda can return to 2012 form, the Ravens just need to get solid players from free agency, and maybe a draft pick to get better.

Spending some of their approximate $24-25 million cap underage (after Pitta) on O-line makes a lot of sense, since protecting Flacco is critical to fixing things in 2014, along with being able to better create holes for a running game, which, if effective, can be a good Flacco-protector in and of itself.

Gradkowski needs to go at center. He’s undersized, was shoved around way too often, and his learning curve has at times been slow. That’s not what the team needs in protecting its $100 million QB, a student learning how to play center, but rather an elite center who takes D-linemen to school.

Former Colt A.Q. Shipley was supposed to be Gradkowski’s backup at center, but due to injuries, was introduced to other positions on the line, and wasn’t very effective at that, but was more or less a need fill for the team.

With that in mind and on the heels of the Browns (smart) move to transition tag Mack, the Ravens should pursue another veteran like Brian De La Puente or Evan Dietrich-Smith. The formula of signing a vet makes sense and either of those two would be a great fit.

The Ravens know from having Matt Birk how important a reliable center can be, and getting Flacco a center he can truly trust to help him is a smart move worth paying for, with a team that does have options.

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About Tom Moore

Tom Moore
TOM MOORE is from Baltimore and writes on sports for Press Box, and he previously served as a columnist for The Baltimore Examiner on many topics related to Baltimore and Maryland. Described by many as a ‘Renaissance man,’ Mr. Moore has hosted the weekly radio program The Tom Moore Show...more

6 Raves on “The Ravens Don’t Franchise Monroe, So What Now?

  1. TRUTH on said:

    Too much fluff, not enough substance. Seems like – you put a-lot-of effort into – that of which, i would say – dare I if you will – was too blotchy – and too um, err, uh — broken. Oh yee, tis of thee. Shall you try again next time – with maybe…less pauses and – more insightful – and useful — information??

    Plus, everything you’ve said has been said a thousand times already. By you’re 15th paragraph i figured surely you would say something worth reading…nope.

    • Tucker: M&T Sec 527 on said:

      Dude,

      You either need to start blogging yourself or go teach English. You spend a lot of time reading a website that you constantly find fault with (and yes, Mrs. Kafunkadunk, I know I just ended a sentence w/ a preposition). No offense – just sayin’…

    • Boldin Raver on said:

      I’m with TRUTH on this one. This is a tired re-hash. The parts folks keep missing is something in depth about the center; i.e., is Birk right and Gino IS a diamond in the rough, or is it more time under the tutelage of free agent center, (INSERT NAMES). Regarding tackles, very few writers are taking the time or lack the knowledge to analyze whether the proposed tackle fits in with Kubiak’s scheme, which seems like the important part. Not sayin I could … but anyhoo. And finally, Wow, Tucker. Mrs. Kafunkadunk musta had some memorable lessons. Love it!

    • John P. on said:

      I thought the article was pretty good, actually. It was informative and provides us with options that are available for our offensive line. Now I’m sure if I read enough articles, I’ll find that everything here is covered somewhere. But I can probably say that about origami and nuclear physics as well.

      And I’ve been pretty harsh on some of the recent articles here myself. The difference, though, is that when I do complain about an article, I challenge the author to answer the questions I wish had been answered in the first place. This gives the author a chance to respond, as well as take notes as to what the audience is looking for.

      You’re just complaining for the sake of complaining. Which resolves nothing. You’re just wasting your time writing it, my time responding to it, and the time of countless others who are no doubt trying to figure out what it is you actually wrote.

      I’m done wasting my time now. I hope you are too.

  2. Cheri on said:

    Welcome back
    I believe if we let Monroe walk for a better deal. What I would like is either Albert, Collins or Veldheer for LT.
    No to Oher, Beadles or Asamoah as they are not LT’s…Also I like the idea of bringing in Brian De La Puente, Evan Dietrich-Smith or John Goddwin who you did not mentioned to compete with Gradkowski.
    The other thing I would consider is Eric Winston to come in and compete with Rick Wagner for the RT .
    It would kind of suck to have to use anotehr draft pick on a LT as we just used 2 to acquire Monroe that would make 3 picks used for that spot within 6 months.
    Need playmakers too just as bad.

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