As free agency officially began on Tuesday afternoon, the Ravens were finally able to lock up left tackle Eugene Monroe to a long-term deal just minutes after the signing period began.
The sides agreed to a five-year, $37.5 million deal that will not only keep him in Baltimore but help stabilize an offensive line expected to go through significant change with other needs at center and right tackle this offseason. The 26-year-old will reportedly receive an $11 million signing bonus and $19 million guaranteed as he became the second Ravens player to forgo free agency to sign a long-term deal after tight end Dennis Pitta re-signed last week. Monroe will reportedly carry a $3.2 million cap number for the 2014 season, according to The Sun.
“I was pretty confident something would’ve worked out here and I’m glad that it did,” Monroe said on AM 1570 WNST.net Tuesday afternoon. “Just for every reason, it makes the most sense for me to be here.”
The Ravens acquired Monroe — a 2009 first-round pick out of the University of Virginia — from the Jacksonville Jaguars last October in exchange for fourth- and fifth-round draft choices, meaning they didn’t want to lose Monroe after paying such a heavy cost. Monroe started 11 games with Baltimore last season and has started 73 of 76 games in his career, showing the kind of durability the Ravens preferred to protect quarterback Joe Flacco’s blindside.
With right tackle Michael Oher also an unrestricted free agent and the Ravens looking to upgrade the center position, Monroe is an important piece to the offensive line puzzle after the immense struggles the unit experienced in 2013. According to Pro Football Focus, the 6-foot-5, 306-pound tackle graded out as the team’s best lineman despite needing to pick up the offense on the fly upon arriving in early October.
As expected, the market moved quickly on left tackles as Branden Albert, Jared Veldheer, and Rodger Saffold all quickly found new homes with Monroe electing to remain in Baltimore after receiving cursory interest from other teams. Despite being far apart in negotiations in the days that followed the Ravens’ decision not to use the franchise tag on their left tackle last week, the sides made substantial progress over the weekend that paved the way for Tuesday’s agreement.
“There was interest from other teams, but there was nothing that would really deter me from staying here,” Monroe said. “That’s the bottom line.”
In contrast to the $7.5 million annual average cost that Monroe will bring over the next five years, Albert received the most lucrative offer on the market by fetching $25 million guaranteed from the Miami Dolphins. Veldheer will earn $37.5 million — $17 million guaranteed — over five years from the Arizona Cardinals. Meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders gave a five-year, $42.5 million contract with $21 million guaranteed to Saffold, who was considered to be the biggest question mark of the top four tackles to find contracts on Tuesday.
Monroe, general manager Ozzie Newsome, and head coach John Harbaugh are scheduled to meet with the media on Wednesday afternoon.
Listen to Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe’s entire conversation with WNST.net’s Glenn Clark and Luke Jones in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault HERE.