Reign Check - Should the Ravens Re-Sign Eugene Monroe?Posted on February 21, 2014 by Gordon McGuinness
Continuing their look at the decisions facing the Ravens this offseason, Justin Ford and Gordon McGuinness turn their attention to the offensive line, where the Ravens brass will be hopeful that they can bring back Eugene Monroe after acquiring him midseason. Logic, and Mr Ford, says that Monroe needs to be priority number one for the team this offseason but McGuinness has another suggestion which would be more of a gamble, but would allow them to save some money to spend elsewhere. So, when push comes to shove, should the Baltimore Ravens re-sign Eugene Monroe?
Why They Should - Ford's Take
If I had to fit this entire article into a tweet all it would say is: “How can you not re-sign Eugene Monroe?”. With Michael Oher’s contract expired failing to sign Monroe would mean entering the season with Ricky Wagner and Kelechi Osemele slated as your starting offensive tackles. You can’t do that. You just can’t. Plus, Ozzie Newsome didn’t trade a 4th and 5th round pick in THIS YEAR’S draft to rent Monroe for just 12 games.
Monroe’s play since he came to Baltimore was stellar for the most part. He excelled in pass protection against top-tier rushers such as Chandler Jones and Jared Allen, all while playing with less than dazzling help to his inside. In the run game he is one of the more athletic offensive tackles in the entire league, which makes him a perfect schematic fit for Juan Castillo and Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking scheme. By the perfect fit, I mean he is the anti-McKinnie. Monroe loves football. Monroe loves taking care of his body.
Both of those things point toward consistency and longevity. Two characteristics which the Ravens have lacked at the left tackle position since Jonathan Ogden’s retirement. It is time to reclaim the left tackle position in Baltimore.
Why They Shouldn't - McGuinness' Take
I need to preface this by saying that Monroe was a fantastic player for the Ravens a year ago. Excellent in pass protection, good against the run, young enough that he still has upside, all true. But here's the thing, the time for the Ravens to sign Monroe was when they made the trade last year. Opinion on him was lower after a subpar start to the season and they should have moved in and tried to re-do his deal there and then.
Fast forward a year and Monroe is the best available left tackle in this year's free agency pool. Some teams have much more cap space than the Ravens, and less holes to fill, so they could find themselves in a bidding war that sees them overpay for the talented lineman. This was my concern as the 2013 season came to an end and I started to think about the other options out there. None of the ones which came into my head initially made any sense to me and then, as I sat and looked through the Free Agency Tracker at Pro Football Focus, I saw him.
Anthony Collins of the AFC North division rivals (and champions) Cincinnati Bengals. No, I know many of you reading this just spat out your coffee or beer, depending on what time you're reading this, but hear me out. Collins stepped in at left tackle for the Bengals last year and was very good. So good in fact, that when Andrew Whitworth, one of the better left tackles in the game, returned from injury, they slid him in at left guard to keep Collins at left tackle. He was average as a run blocker, but as a pass blocker there was nobody better in the league. He allowed just 12 total pressures from 317 pass blocking snaps according to PFF, and all 12 of those were quarterback hurries. So, from 317 passing plays where Collins was at left tackle, he didn't allow Andy Dalton to be sacked or knocked down once.
But, as good as Collins was, the body of work on him is much smaller and, at 28 years old when the season begins, doesn't have the back catalogue that Monroe has. In all likelihood, that means he comes cheaper and he still has the same upside as Monroe. That excess money could then be spent helping to plug gaps at wide receiver, right tackle, center, or any other of the many holes the Ravens have this offseason. Re-signing Monroe isn't a bad choice, but signing Collins is a better one.
The Decision (from Purple Reign Show Editor-In-Chief Phil Gentile)
Again both of these guys make compelling arguments, however, this is a no brainer in my humble opinion. We can all agree Michael Oher is NOT coming back right? Well subtract Monroe and we have now lost two critical pieces of an offensive line that wasn't very good to begin with. The Ravens acquired Eugene Monroe during the season so he still hasn't had an offseason to learn the playbook and build relationships with his teammates. Ravens fans saw his play improve as the season progressed and I think that will continue in 2014. Plus at 26 years old he is still in the prime of his career at one of the hardest positions to find elite talent in all of sports. As far as need and importance to the team his return is even more important than Dennis Pitta's in my eyes. Get this guy a contract immediately. Last week I said we were re-signing Pitta so I guess that leaves Monroe with the franchise tag until the team can negotiate something long term.
Verdict - Franchise Eugene Monroe (with the intention of signing him to a long term deal later in the offseason)