Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Monroe provides stability for Ravens
By Jamison Hensley
After offensive tackle Eugene Monroe signed his contract with the Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday, general manager Ozzie Newsome recounted a story about the time owner Steve Bisciotti asked why the team was paying left tackle Jonathan Ogden more than all of the other offensive linemen.
"Up until you don't have a left tackle," pro personnel director James Harris said, "you don't appreciate it."
Ogden was a Pro Bowl left tackle for the Ravens for 11 years and was the best of his generation at that position. When he retired in 2007, the Ravens learned Harris' lesson the hard way, struggling to stop a revolving door on the blind side for five seasons: Jared Gaither (2008-09), Michael Oher (2010), Bryant McKinnie (2011), Oher again (2012 regular season), McKinnie again (2012 playoffs).
The Ravens weren't looking for another Ogden. They just wanted someone dependable.
This is why the Ravens traded fourth- and fifth-round picks to the Jacksonville Jaguars for Monroe last season and why the team made Monroe its second signing of free agency.
"At the age he's at right now [Monroe is 26] and the promise that he has moving forward, that's something we don't have to address for a long time," Newsome said.
Monroe isn't a Pro Bowl left tackle. But he's smart, hard-working and athletic. When the Ravens signed McKinnie last year, they didn't know what shape he would report in, or whether he would report at all. Monroe has been at the Ravens' facility every day this offseason and he sometimes works out twice a day.
"I work every year to improve my game," said Monroe, who wore a purple tie and brought his wife and daughter to the news conference. "There is so much turnover in this league. If you're not working to get better, you're working to be out of the league. You see it all the time, talented guys not putting in the effort and then they're no longer playing. My goal every year is to analyze my game to see where I weak and work to make those points strong."
One of the reasons why the Ravens have had a difficult time finding a productive left tackle is they've drafted near the bottom of the first round for the past five years and they didn't have a large amount of salary-cap room. This led the Ravens to making the first in-season trade in franchise history.
What Monroe did in his 11 starts with the Ravens only confirmed to team officials that he was the long-term answer for a long-time trouble spot.
"Eugene is going to be a leader for us for many years to come. He's going to be an anchor for us for many years to come," coach John Harbaugh said. "That's what you're looking for. To build from Dennis [Pitta] and Eugene now as the first two guys that we signed, who are really linchpin-type guys for us on the offense, is really important."