There will be plenty of angst among those who follow the Baltimore Ravens after the loss of free-agent offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele on Tuesday. There just shouldn't be vitriol directed at the Ravens.
Osemele reached an agreement in principle with the Oakland Raiders during the two-day negotiating period before free agency begins, according to the NFL Network. By all accounts, Osemele is going to make a reported $11 million per season, which is why he is going to suit up next season for Raiders and not the Ravens. The move can't be made official until 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, when the new league years begins.
Baltimore would've loved to put the powerful and nasty Osemele at left tackle, where he would've protected Joe Flacco’s blind side for the next four or five years. The Ravens couldn't simply do it at that price.
It was too big of a risk to invest that type of money in Osemele, who is a dominant guard but still a question mark at left tackle. No one can say Osemele is a top-five left tackle after he played four games at that position last season. Except that's what the Ravens would be saying if they gave him that type of money, which is close to what future Hall of Fame lineman Joe Thomas ($11.5 million per year) is making.
The Ravens certainly need a left tackle. The reason they're in this predicament is because they gave a five-year, $37.5 million deal to Eugene Monroe two years ago. Baltimore can't follow up a bad contract with another potentially bad one.
With limited cap space, the Ravens aren't in a position to overpay for any free agent, not even a second-round pick they spent four years developing into one of the promising young blockers in the league. Baltimore ranked second with the least amount of cap room in the league as recently as last week. Unless the Ravens make more cuts, it's going to be about value for Baltimore in free agency.
The Raiders, meanwhile, don't have to be as thrifty. Oakland had the second-most cap room in the NFL, which means more freedom to spend. If Osemele doesn't pan out at left tackle, the Raiders can shift him back to guard and no one will blink about his bloated salary because it's money they have to spend anyway.
Making the right decision in terms of football economics doesn't help the Ravens solve their problem at left tackle. Can the Ravens really trust Monroe again? He has missed 16 games since receiving $17.5 million guaranteed two years ago. Does Baltimore want to use the No. 6 overall pick on a left tackle? Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley should be available, but it's become a gamble to take offensive tackles in the top 10 lately. Is there a better option in free agency? There are plenty of question marks with Russell Okung, Donald Penn, Kelvin Beachum and Jermon Bushrod.
In an attempt to address left tackle, the Ravens made a self-described "aggressive" offer to Osemele at the NFL combine last month. It obviously wasn't enough. And, with the amount of cap room that other teams have, it realistically was never going to be enough.