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.