Tag Archive | "eugene monroe"

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Offensive position battles aplenty for Ravens at start of OTAs

Posted on 24 May 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are holding their first organized team activities this week and with them come plenty of questions as on-field preparations begin for the 2016 season.

Few conclusions can be drawn from the voluntary workouts that will be conducted without a number of veterans, but the practices will provide an early look at some players returning from injuries as well as rookies competing with established NFL talent for the first time. Thursday’s workout will be open to media to conclude the first week.

Coming off their worst season in nearly a decade, the Ravens have plenty of jobs up for grabs on both sides of the ball.

Here is a look at the top offensive competitions:

1. Left tackle

The candidates: Eugene Monroe, Ronnie Stanley

The reality: With Monroe continuing his crusade for medical marijuana in Las Vegas this week, the rookie first-round pick Stanley should receive extensive opportunities at left tackle. If he proves to be more than ready to handle the job, general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh can feel better about the possibility of letting the oft-injured Monroe go and saving $6.5 million in salary.

2. Left guard

The candidates: Ronnie Stanley, John Urschel, Ryan Jensen, Vlad Ducasse Alex Lewis

The reality: This spot is directly tied to left tackle as Stanley would appear to be the slam-dunk choice to start should the Ravens keep Monroe for 2016. If Stanley plays tackle, the other four will compete for Kelechi Osemele’s old spot with Ducasse holding the experience edge with 22 career NFL starts, but both Urschel and Jensen have fared well at guard when given the chance to play there in the past.

3. Running back

The candidates: Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Terrance West, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Trent Richardson

The reality: The veteran Forsett is the early favorite to start, but the size of this list reflects how wide open this competition could be. There is plenty of depth, but the question will be whether there is enough high-impact talent to make the running game thrive and not just a collection of No. 2 and No. 3 backs. At the very least, Allen and Dixon give Joe Flacco two attractive options as receivers out of the backfield.

4. Tight end

The candidates: Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Dennis Pitta

The reality: All eyes will be on Pitta — with fingers crossed — as he is serious about returning to action, but it’s impossible to know what kind of player he can be after two serious hip injuries. Is the veteran newcomer Watson the favorite to start after a career year in New Orleans or will Gillmore build on his encouraging 2015? The 2015 second-rounder Williams could also be ready to take a big step forward.

5. Wide receiver

The candidates: Steve Smith, Mike Wallace, Kamar Aiken, Breshad Perriman

The reality: We don’t figure to get a look at Smith until training camp, but Perriman will be intriguing to watch after missing his rookie season with a knee injury. Perriman and Wallace are better speed complements to Smith’s skill set, but it would be unwise to overlook Aiken after his 2015 campaign. The next tier of receivers that includes rookies Chris Moore and Keenan Reynolds, Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Butler, Chris Matthews, and Daniel Brown will be competing for the last couple roster spots.

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Thirteen Ravens thoughts counting down to OTAs

Posted on 20 May 2016 by Luke Jones

With organized team activities set to begin next week, I’ve offered 13 Ravens-related thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Ozzie Newsome was pleased with last month’s draft, but a key to 2016 will be the number of rookies making an immediate impact instead of merely serving as inventory for the future. That answer could be the difference in getting back to the playoffs or not after a down season.

2. The free-agent signing of Jerraud Powers last week brought a much-needed veteran to the cornerback mix, but I still can’t help but look at that group with concern — particularly on the outside — unless the pass rush is dramatically better, especially with Jimmy Smith coming off another foot procedure.

3. Inside linebacker reminds me of right tackle in 2014 and tight end last season before Rick Wagner and Crockett Gillmore emerged. My early money is on Zach Orr starting. I can’t buy Arthur Brown being the guy after he didn’t even play down the stretch of a lost 2015 season.

4. I’m curious to know how Lardarius Webb is preparing physically to move to safety after seven seasons a cornerback. It’s no secret that Eric Weddle isn’t the biggest guy, but Webb was listed at just 182 pounds last year. Who is going to cover the big, athletic tight ends?

5. Like anyone, I have questions about Steve Smith returning from a torn Achilles tendon at age 37, but I’m intrigued to see what he has in store for us. The Ravens can’t just assume greatness, but I won’t be surprised if he still provides plenty in his final season.

6. There’s merit to the medical marijuana cause Eugene Monroe is championing, but his scheduled appearance on a panel in Las Vegas in the middle of the first week of OTAs isn’t the best look for a player at a position where a 2016 first-round pick is breathing down his neck.

7. We probably won’t see him until next month’s mandatory minicamp, but I’m very curious to hear from Terrell Suggs. Where is he physically after tearing his Achilles tendon in the 2015 opener? Perhaps more importantly, where is he mentally entering his 14th season?

8. It wasn’t surprising to hear Kenneth Dixon say he tries to emulate Marshall Faulk as a running back. Watching his college highlights reminds you of Faulk or Ricky Watters as a receiver. The Ravens would love for him to be even a respectable fraction of either of those former greats.

9. Much focus will be on second-round rookie Kamalei Correa, but the Ravens need Za’Darius Smith to be able to step into Courtney Upshaw’s old role to allow Elvis Dumervil to be a situational rusher. Their willingness to let Upshaw go for peanuts in free agency reflects their confidence in Smith.

10. The Ravens having competition at wide receiver is nothing new, but there is better talent at the top of the depth chart this year. Marlon Brown already being let go reflects that reality when he was competing for the No. 3 wideout job only a year ago.

11. We’re all rooting for Dennis Pitta to stay healthy, but it’s fair to ask if he’s even one of Baltimore’s best three tight ends now. He’s played a total of seven games in three seasons and will be 31. Is he still explosive enough after two major hip injuries?

12. The fourth-round selection of Michigan defensive tackle Willie Henry reiterated how forgotten Carl Davis was by the end of his rookie season. The 2015 third-rounder provided the biggest impact of any rookie early on before hitting the wall and seeing just 17 defensive snaps over the final six games.

13. John Harbaugh deserves the chance to tell his story regarding players illegally wearing pads during rookie camp, but the current collective bargaining agreement has been in place since 2011. Even if they sincerely didn’t know the rules, it’s hard to imagine the Ravens hadn’t thought of doing this before.

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First-round pick Ronnie Stanley agrees to deal with Ravens

Posted on 13 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Signing a first-round pick used to be a significant accomplishment for an NFL team, but now it’s little more than a formality.

Fifteen days after taking Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley with their earliest draft choice since 2000, the Ravens agreed to a four-year deal with the left tackle worth just over $20 million with a projected $13 million signing bonus. With the rookie wage scale introduced in the most recent collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011, rookie holdouts have become a thing of the past as the Ravens have already signed nine of their 11 selections made in last month’s draft.

Stanley became the fourth top 10 pick from this year’s draft to agree to a contract.

It remains to be seen where Stanley will play as a rookie as incumbent left tackle Eugene Monroe remains on the roster for now, but the veteran is set to make $6.5 million in base salary and would carry an $8.7 million salary cap cap figure for the 2016 season. Cutting Monroe after June 1 would save $6.5 million in cap space with $2.2 million in dead money on this year’s cap and $4.4 million dead on the 2017 salary cap.

The Ravens have sent mixed signals regarding Monroe’s status throughout the offseason as he has started just 17 games over two injury-riddled seasons since signing a five-year, $37.5 million contract in March of 2014. One option would be to keep Monroe for one more year while shifting Stanley to left guard to fill the void left by free-agent departure Kelechi Osemele.

Baltimore used a similar strategy in 1996 when it drafted future Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden and played him at guard as a rookie while veteran Tony Jones stayed at left tackle before being traded to Denver the following offseason.

“The way we’re going to do it is we’re going to let Ronnie go in there and compete with Eugene,” offensive line coach Juan Castillo said on April 29. “What we want to do is play the best five players. We’re fortunate Ronnie is a very good athlete and good player, and so is Eugene. We’ll let them compete, and we know that we’re going to play the best five guys. The Ravens are all about competition.”

Monroe has become an outspoken advocate for medical marijuana, recently making an $80,000 donation to researchers at Johns Hopkins and the University of Pennsylvania. He is also scheduled to appear on a medical marijuana research panel in Las Vegas in the midst of the Ravens’ first three-day set of organized team activities in less than two weeks.

To no surprise considering the NFL’s stance on marijuana, the Ravens have distanced themselves from Monroe’s position.

The Ravens have just two remaining 2016 draft picks who have yet to sign, third-round defensive end Bronson Kaufusi and sixth-round wide receiver Keenan Reynolds.

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Writing on wall clear for Monroe after Ravens tab Stanley?

Posted on 29 April 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens weren’t ready to publicly anoint first-round pick Ronnie Stanley as their starting left tackle moments after making him their earliest selection since the 2000 draft.

But you rarely take an offensive lineman that high without any other intention, especially when your incumbent left tackle has started just 17 games over the last two seasons.

“I think it’ll pan out the way it pans out,” said head coach John Harbaugh, who left open the possibility of Stanley playing left guard like Jonathan Ogden did as a rookie in 1996. “Good coaches, we love competition. I say we throw them all in there and let them compete and may the best man win, and we’ll see who that is.”

The question remains whether incumbent left tackle Eugene Monroe will be a part of that competition as it’s no secret that the Ravens have been disappointed with his inability to stay on the field over the last two seasons after they gave him a five-year, $37.5 million contract in 2014. The organization has also distanced itself from his offseason campaigning for medical marijuana use in the NFL.

Asked if Monroe still factored into the Ravens’ plans for the 2016 season, general manager Ozzie Newsome would only comment on his current status recovering from December shoulder surgery and not about what would happen when he’s cleared to play.

“Right now, Eugene is still under medical care,” said Newsome, who has offered tepid endorsements of Monroe throughout the offseason. “He’s still working with the trainers on a daily basis. Up until he becomes a healthy football player, he’s like [Terrell] Suggs and Steve Smith and Joe [Flacco] and those guys. They’re under medical care right now.”

With Monroe scheduled to make $6.5 million in base salary and to carry an $8.7 million salary cap figure in 2016, the Ravens would save $2.1 million in cap space by cutting him now and leaving $6.6 million in dead money for 2016 or they could designate him as a post-June 1 release to save $6.5 million on this year’s cap and push $4.4 million in dead money to next season.

Should they release Monroe, the Ravens would probably be in the market for more tackle depth because that would still leave James Hurst as the primary backup to Stanley and starting right tackle Rick Wagner, who will become an unrestricted free agent after the 2016 season. It was Hurst who was pushed into quarterback Joe Flacco’s left knee, resulting in his season-ending injury last November.

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Stanley pick solid despite feeling like bummer for Ravens

Posted on 29 April 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — All signs point to first-round left tackle Ronnie Stanley being a rock-solid pick for the Ravens.

A three-year starter at Notre Dame, the 6-foot-6, 315-pound lineman had been linked to the Ravens as an option throughout the pre-draft process and head coach John Harbaugh has a lengthy relationship with Fighting Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. The debate will continue whether general manager Ozzie Newsome passed on a superior talent in Mississippi left tackle Laremy Tunsil, but you could hardly blame the Ravens if they did shy away from the latter’s off-field baggage that was on display to the entire world via social media on Thursday night.

Some draft pundits considered Stanley the better prospect anyway and the Ravens apparently agreed.

“Our scouts get a lot of information,” said general manager Ozzie Newsome when asked if the released Twitter video of Tunsil smoking from a bong influenced his decision. “When things happen, a lot of the time we’re not surprised. We took the best player, the player that was rated the highest on the board at that point. But I cannot neglect the importance of the work that our scouts do in the fall and in the spring getting information for us.”

You can understand the Ravens’ desire to move on from incumbent left tackle Eugene Monroe as he’s been held to just 17 starts over the last two years and appears more interested in medical marijuana advocacy than football these days. It’s also never a bad idea to emphasize protecting the blindside of your franchise quarterback coming back from a serious left knee injury.

But the night still felt like a bummer.

Maybe it’s because the Ravens unsuccessfully attempted to trade up to take Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey before he was claimed by Jacksonville just a pick before they were on the clock. Top pass-rushing target Joey Bosa also came off the board immediately after the two quarterbacks were taken with the first two picks of the night.

It’s fair to wonder whether the Ravens could have traded down a few spots and still tabbed Stanley while picking up an additional pick or two, but the opportunity didn’t come to fruition — Newsome said he didn’t receive a single call while Baltimore was on the clock — and it’s not as though the 22-year-old tackle was viewed as unworthy of a top 10 choice.

Drafting Stanley may have been the prudent move, but the organization still had to use its earliest pick since 2000 at a position where they invested a five-year, $37.5 million contract — $17.5 million of it guaranteed — just two years ago. It still feels more like fixing a mistake than dramatically improving your football team, even if Stanley can adjust more quickly to the NFL than other top 10 left tackles who have struggled in recent years.

“When you watch his maturation throughout his career and his ability to adapt to the different things they do, you just feel confident in his ability to be able to pick things up,” said director of college scouting Joe Hortiz about Stanley coming out of Notre Dame. “They run a multiple offense, they do a lot of different things, and they change it up in the middle of the games and series of what they’re doing. [Stanley] really adjusts well. I think from intelligence, maturity, and the way he’s grown, he gives you confidence going forward.”

If we’re being completely honest, left tackle just isn’t a pick that will fire up a fan base whose team is coming off a rare losing season and needs more playmakers on both sides of the ball.

But that’s when the Ravens will remind you that they were in a similar position 20 years ago when they took a left tackle out of UCLA named Jonathan Ogden, who was far from the most exciting choice for a team in a new city. It proved to be a home-run decision, of course, and the organization has been trying to find the 2013 Hall of Fame inductee’s long-term replacement since his retirement after the 2007 season.

Jared Gaither, Michael Oher, Bryant McKinnie, and Monroe all proved to be no better than temporary placeholders. The Ravens hope they’ve finally found their long-term solution in Stanley.

To expect him to be another Ogden would be unfair, but he needs to be a player the Ravens can pencil in at left tackle and not have to worry about for a long time if this is to be a successful pick at sixth overall. At the very least, you hope Stanley can be closer to Ogden than Oher, who didn’t cut it at left tackle despite being a first-round pick in 2009.

“We’re going to have high expectations for him, but it’s going to be up to him to get the job done,” Harbaugh said. “He has to win the job just like anybody else would have to.”

No, Stanley may not have been the best-case scenario for the Ravens, but they think he can finally anchor the position that was the least of the franchise’s worries for more than a decade and has now been a headache for nearly as long now.

That’s a long-term outcome that would easily outweigh any lingering disappointment from Thursday night.

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Ten Ravens thoughts counting down to draft

Posted on 13 April 2016 by Luke Jones

With the offseason training program starting next week and the 2016 draft just two weeks away, I’ve offered 10 Ravens-related thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Dennis Pitta restructuring his contract in an attempt to continue his career was newsworthy, but I’m not convinced it changes much as it relates to the Ravens’ 2016 plans. It merely gives them financial protection for a player who’s a health risk even taking the practice field this spring.

2. The Ravens raised eyebrows when they gave restricted free agent tight end Chase Ford a non-guaranteed $1.671 million tender, but they did it when the status of Crockett Gillmore was uncertain and they hadn’t signed Benjamin Watson. He became expendable after those realities came into focus, especially at that price.

3. It was interesting to see ESPN’s Mel Kiper mock Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott to Baltimore, but it only makes sense if you’re convinced he’s going to be a top 3 running back in the NFL over the next five years. If not, there’s not enough value there at No. 6.

4. A few others have already touched on this, but there’s little reason to think the Ravens will exercise their fifth-year option on 2013 first-round safety Matt Elam that would cost more than $5 million in 2017. He’ll need to worry about simply making the 53-man roster at this point.

5. I don’t love the idea of drafting Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley at No. 6, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take an offensive tackle in the early rounds. Perhaps they find an eventual replacement for Eugene Monroe or Rick Wagner, but they must improve their depth at the very least.

6. Whether it’s asking a Charlotte teenager with autism to prom or taking down Greg Hardy on Twitter, Steve Smith has certainly stood out in very positive ways. No matter what he brings to the field returning from injury in his final season, the Ravens are lucky he passed their way.

7. Reporters are just as fatigued as fans are from the vague updates regarding Breshad Perriman, but the true test will be whether the 2015 first-round receiver is out there running around during organized team activities open to media next month. Until then, I’ll remain as skeptical as anyone.

8. I rarely read much into what’s said before the draft and he was asked specifically about Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, but director of college scouting Joe Hortiz mentioning him being a coach’s son certainly made him sound like a “Ravens” kind of player. He wouldn’t be a bad first-round choice.

9. The Ravens hope at least one of Joey Bosa, Myles Jack, and DeForest Buckner makes it to No. 6, but trading back for an extra pick or two wouldn’t be the worst development if they can come away with a player like Hargreaves or Clemson edge defender Shaq Lawson.

10. Ozzie Newsome was wise to temper expectations when asked if he expected Baltimore to contend this year. There’s value with the signings of Watson, safety Eric Weddle, and receiver Mike Wallace, but finding high-impact talent in the draft will be more important to bouncing back significantly from a 5-11 season.

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Ravens playing “good cop, bad cop” with Monroe?

Posted on 23 March 2016 by Luke Jones

Members of the Ravens brass have presented a lukewarm attitude regarding incumbent left tackle Eugene Monroe throughout the offseason, but Steve Bisciotti took a different approach speaking at the league meetings on Tuesday.

And while much could change between now and the start of the season, the Baltimore owner sure made it sound like the man who’s been limited to just 16 starts over the last two years will again be entrusted to protect Joe Flacco’s blind side this fall. Monroe is scheduled to enter the third season of a five-year, $37.5 million contract and would carry an $8.7 million salary cap figure for 2016.

“He is our left tackle going into next year,” Bisciotti told The Sun in Boca Raton, Fla. on Tuesday. “It’s like [third-year wide receiver Michael] Campanaro. We think the world of him. But you have to know what you get out of the guy, and Eugene has been a pretty durable player these last couple years. But nobody works out harder than he does.

“I just feel bad. I think a lot of the speculation about us moving on from him clearly comes down to the fact that he’s been hurt a lot, because he’s played pretty well when he’s been in there. We’ve always been happy with him when he’s on the field.”

Bisciotti’s comments were a contrast from those made by coach John Harbaugh earlier in the day, who was asked about Monroe and said he anticipated a competition that would include right tackle Rick Wagner and reserves James Hurst and De’Ondre Wesley. Perhaps this is the Ravens’ version of “good cop, bad cop” in trying to motivate their left tackle for 2016.

Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Wagner enters his third season as the projected starting right tackle. The Wisconsin product played at a very high level in 2014 before a Lisfranc injury cut his season short. He started all 16 games last year, but it was apparent that he was still feeling the effects of foot surgery as he finished 49th among qualifying offensive tackles in Pro Football Focus’ grading system.

Meanwhile, Hurst started 11 games in Monroe’s place and graded 74th among 77 tackles, according to PFF. It was Hurst who was pushed into Flacco’s left knee, causing tears to the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments of the franchise quarterback last November. Even if the Ravens elect to go with Monroe for another season, upgrading the backup left tackle spot is a crucial need.

“I don’t have any doubt that all those tackles can play both sides,” Harbaugh said. “In some ways, the NFL has changed a little bit where it’s not just left-tackle oriented like it used to be maybe 10, 15 years ago. It used to be a little more left-tackle oriented because of the way the protections were organized. Now, you can move that around a little bit.

“The blind side still is important. The quarterback doesn’t see that tackle getting beat when he’s one-on-one, so it still has value. But there are ways to protect both tackles. It’s going to be a competition with those guys and whoever else we add.”

It’s predictable for Harbaugh to speak with confidence about players currently on the roster, but envisioning any of the aforementioned names seriously challenging Monroe’s ability is a stretch. Wagner played left tackle in college, but it’s fair to doubt whether he has the quickness to be a serious candidate on the left side. As Bisciotti correctly noted, Monroe has performed well when he’s been on the field, but his lack of durability over the last two years is a major concern.

The tone of Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome might be a better reflection of how the organization feels about Monroe, but there should be no rush to part ways with him before a real replacement is added through free agency, trade, or the draft. Cutting Monroe now would clear just $2.1 million in cap space and would leave $6.6 million in dead money, making a post-June 1 release more of a possibility.

Even if Bisciotti’s thoughts can be taken at face value and Monroe is destined to return as the starting left tackle, Harbaugh clearly stated the organization’s position on the offensive lineman’s commentary on medical marijuana that has garnered much attention over the last couple weeks.

“Those are his comments,” Harbaugh said. “What’s the disclaimer? ‘He does not speak for the network.’ I promise you he does not speak for the organization.”

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Ravens’ Monroe continues speaking in support of medical marijuana research

Posted on 15 March 2016 by Luke Jones

A week after encouraging the NFL to research the benefits of medical marijuana in an interview with CNN, Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe discussed the topic at length using his official Twitter account on Tuesday morning.

Citing Monday’s admission from NFL executive vice president of health and safety Jeff Miller that there is a link between playing football and developing degenerative brain disorders, Monroe wrote about the need for research to determine whether marijuana can “curb traumatic brain injury” and called for fellow players to “stand up” for this issue and provide funding. The 28-year-old says he is not advocating using the drug for recreational purposes.

“It’s a shame that Roger Goodell would tell [our] fans there’s no medical vs. recreational distinction,” Monroe wrote. “If I’m a fan, I’m pissed at the time I wasted listening to Goodell lie to me at the Super Bowl. As a player, I sure am. Let’s do some research.”

Monroe suffered a concussion on the Ravens’ first offensive series of the 2015 regular season and did not return until Week 5. Because of an assortment of injuries, he has started just 16 games since signing a five-year, $37.5 million contract before the 2014 season.

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Osemele thanks Ravens after critiquing their commitment

Posted on 11 March 2016 by Luke Jones

After officially signing his five-year, $58.5 million contract to join the Oakland Raiders on Thursday, Kelechi Osemele took time to thank the Ravens and the place he called home for the last four years.

But that message came after the 2012 second-round pick complimented the Raiders’ commitment to their offensive line and appeared to question his former team’s.

“They have a really up-and-coming young team [in Oakland]. That was sold to me a lot,” Osemele said in a conference call with the Bay Area media. “Going through the roster, I kind of saw what everybody was saying and the emphasis on building the offensive line, coming from a place where [that’s] not really appreciated, you know? Coming to a team where offensive line play is a focus and it matters and they want to build that up, that was a big factor.”

Head coach John Harbaugh said last month that the Ravens made an “aggressive” offer to Osemele, but it soon became clear that they weren’t going to come close to the record-setting contract Oakland handed to the fifth-year guard. It’s true that Baltimore hasn’t spent as much on its offensive line as the Raiders, but that doesn’t mean a sufficient commitment hasn’t been made to the group.

In the last two years, the Ravens have signed five-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda and left tackle Eugene Monroe to long-term contracts and acquired starting center Jeremy Zuttah from Tampa Bay in exchange for a fifth-round pick and promptly signed him to an extension. General manager Ozzie Newsome would have loved to have kept Osemele, but you just can’t pay everyone when there’s the reality of the salary cap.

Let’s see how much Oakland will be able to spend on its offensive line in the future when young quarterback Derek Carr is no longer playing on a cheap rookie contract.

Perhaps there are some lingering hard feelings about not getting the money he wanted with the Ravens, but Osemele made these comments speaking to Raiders reporters and was more likely focused on complimenting his new team rather than going out of his way to take a shot at his old one. The comment definitely wasn’t a good look, but remembering the context is also important.

Not long after making those remarks on Thursday evening, Osemele posted the following message on Instragram:

“I want to take this time to thank the city of Baltimore, the Ravens organization, the Bisciotti family, my Ravens teammates as well as all of the Ravens fans for all the support they gave my teammates and me while I was in the great city of Baltimore. I was blessed to experience the pinnacle achievement in the NFL when we won the Super Bowl my rookie year and have been chasing that high ever since. I can never thank the Ravens enough for taking a chance on a kid out of Iowa State that critics said was too soft to play in the NFL because he was raised in a house full of women. I hope I was able to prove them wrong through my hard work and determination on the field and wish the Ravens and the city of Baltimore nothing but the best in the future! Thanks for all the memories!!!”

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Osemele set to join Oakland when free agency opens

Posted on 08 March 2016 by Luke Jones

More than 24 hours before free agency officially opened, the Ravens have all but officially lost their best player from this year’s class.

According to NFL Network, fifth-year offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele has agreed in principle to a deal with the Oakland Raiders that’s expected to pay him more than $11 million per season. The contract will reportedly make the 2012 second-round pick one of the five highest-paid offensive linemen in the league.

The Ravens had hoped to keep Osemele and planned to permanently move him to left tackle, but it soon became apparent after they made an “aggressive” offer that interest from competing teams with more salary cap space were going to be too much to overcome. With Osemele having only started four games at left tackle in his NFL career and the Ravens already extending five-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda last fall, it would have been too great a risk to pay Osemele lucrative money solely to play a position where he remains relatively unproven.

Much of the angst regarding Osemele’s status has stemmed from the disappointing return on the five-year, $37.5 million contract awarded to left tackle Eugene Monroe two years ago. Since signing that deal in March of 2013, the 28-year-old has started just 16 games and has fallen out of the good graces of the organization, evident from general manager Ozzie Newsome’s lukewarm endorsement this offseason.

As much as critics have pointed to Monroe’s health problems over the last two years, it’s worth noting that Osemele missed 13 games over the last three seasons and underwent major back surgery in 2013.

Monroe is scheduled to carry an $8.7 million cap figure for 2016, but cutting him prior to June 1 would create just $2.1 million in space and $6.6 million in dead money on the cap. With Osemele joining the Raiders, the Ravens would also be without a starting left tackle if they decided to cut Monroe.

While many mock drafts have linked the Ravens to Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley with the sixth overall pick in April, the organization might be better off — for cap purposes and on the field — sticking with Monroe for another season while aiming to draft an offensive tackle with some upside in the second or third round. At the very least, this could upgrade the backup plan that includes James Hurst, who played poorly filling in for Monroe in 2015 before eventually being replaced by Osemele.

Further complicating the situation is the fact that right tackle Rick Wagner is set to become an unrestricted free agent next winter.

Young offensive linemen John Urschel and Ryan Jensen are expected to compete for the starting left guard job.

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