By show of hands, who expected Marlon Humphrey to be the first Ravens player to sign a long-term deal in 2020?
I’m sure the head count is minimal compared to those who expected Left Tackle Ronnie Stanley to put pen to paper en route to his own extension.
While I’m sure the entire Ravens Flock is elated with the Humphrey extension, I’m sure many are still wondering if – and when – we can expect Stanley’s to follow.
After some careful thought and consideration, I genuinely don’t expect to see a new deal for the Ravens star tackle until the 2022 offseason.
I know that seems irrational to some extent, but there’s a series of events that could lead to that point, and reason to believe it’s the best move for the Ravens to delay the inevitable (albeit, a ‘good’ inevitable).
Right out of the gates, we have to ask ourselves why the Stanley deal hasn’t gotten done yet.
In my opinion, the logic starts and ends with the Texans’ deal with fellow 2016 draft pick, LT Laremy Tunsil. For those who forget Tunsil’s path to the Texans:
- Gas mask incident on draft night.
- Drafted 13th overall by the Miami Dolphins in the 2016 draft (Stanley drafted 10th by Baltimore).
- Fins stunk (per usual).
- In 2019, the rebuilding Fins shipped Tunsil, WR Kenny Stills, and a few late picks to Houston in exchange for a pair of first round picks and some other throw-ins.
The basis of this trade was really Tunsil for two first round picks, and with such a haul being shipped out, the Texans had no choice but to pony up and pay him top dollar. They did just that, handing him a three-year, $66M deal with $50M guaranteed, effectively blowing up the tackle market.
How bad did this inflate the tackle market?
That’s… a gap.
Back to the Ravens and Stanley…
I believe his agent is using the Tunsil deal as the benchmark for negotiations. There’s no way Stanley’s camp is looking for a penny less, and I’d imagine he’s likely looking to easily top that ($23M+ AAV?).
For the Ravens, obviously paying Stanley in the high teens on average is much more enticing than $22M+ AAV, but what can they do?
Well, they can wait.
Indeed, the Ravens’ best chance to get Stanley’s number down is to franchise tag their left tackle in 2021, then head back to the table in the 2022 offseason.
Realistically, the franchise tag for offensive tackles in 2021 will be a slight jump from the current tag price, which is $15.5M. Let’s call it $16.5M… which looks reasonable compared to Tunsil’s deal, does it not?
Naturally, this is merely delaying the inevitable, but lest we forget, the 2021 cap will likely be flat. As such, contracts won’t see the year-over-year inflation they typically do, and if anything, we could see a regression in AAV for many positions. Looking at the top free agents at the left tackle position in 2021, David Bakhtiari (Packers) and Trent Williams (49ers) stick out as the top two free agents that will set the market. Honestly, I don’t expect either to break the $20M AAV threshold set by Tunsil, which to me is going to help the Ravens out when discussing terms with Stanley.
Pushing the narrative that Tunsil was the anomaly and the market still sits in the mid-to-high teens on a new deal will help position the Ravens to veer from a $22-23M AAV range, down to a more reasonable $18-19M AAV range. Moreover, with many teams cap strapped in a flat cap year, there’s less reason to believe Stanley and his agent will have much more room to dig their heels in on top OT money, while suggesting they can get their terms met elsewhere.
Every penny saved helps.
Naturally, with every risk, you don’t always see the reward. There’s always the chance that the market continues to ascend for offensive tackles and Stanley’s agent increases his asking price, or that a lack of contract now would sour relations between the player and team on any further attempt at an extension.
Whether or not the Ravens believe the risk is worth the reward is a different question, but in my opinion, if this holding pattern continues, slapping Stanley with the tag in 2021 before heading back to the negotiating table in 2022 in the most ideal situation for the franchise.