Two days before the start of the NFL draft, the Ravens took a logical step to keep their earliest selection of the last 19 years by picking up the fifth-year option for left tackle Ronnie Stanley.
The move that keeps the sixth overall pick of the 2016 draft under contract through 2020 was expected as Stanley has started 42 regular-season games in his career and has anchored the left side of the offensive line. The 25-year-old earned Pro Football Focus’ third-highest pass-blocking grade and 36th-highest run-blocking grade among qualified offensive tackles last season.
Stanley is now scheduled to make just shy of $13 million in 2020, a salary guaranteed only for injury right now. The option year becomes fully guaranteed on the first day of the 2020 league year, meaning the Ravens could still have the option of releasing Stanley if he were to have a poor 2019 campaign.
“I think he’s playing extremely well, and I love the way that he finished the season this year,” general manager Eric DeCosta said at the NFL scouting combine in February. “He really built on the successes that he had two years ago, and we’re excited about him moving forward. He’s a great young man. He’s motivated. He’s a good player at a really, really important position.”
Stanley is the first Baltimore first-round pick to have his fifth-year option exercised since former Ravens inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, which presents an interesting question about the left tackle’s future. The Ravens arguably waited too long to ramp up contract negotiations with Mosley before ultimately losing him to the New York Jets, a disappointing outcome even with their understandable reluctance to pay him $17 million per year. The 6-foot-6, 315-pound Stanley has played well in his first three seasons and was named a second alternate for last year’s Pro Bowl, but the Notre Dame product has been graded no higher than 17th overall among offensive tackles by PFF in any of his first three seasons.
Many of the arguments Mosley’s critics made against re-signing the four-time Pro Bowl linebacker to a lucrative contract could also apply to Stanley, who hasn’t received as much acclaim to this point in his career. Of course, teams value left tackles more than inside linebackers in today’s NFL, but it’s fair to wonder what the right price would be to extend Stanley beyond 2020 and whether that will match what he ultimately asks for when he’s scheduled to hit the market at age 27.
Either way, DeCosta would be wise to engage in contract talks sooner than later in hopes of avoiding another lose-lose predicament of being forced to reset the market at a position or losing a valuable player.