One of the bigger offseason decisions the Ravens have to make is what to do at left tackle. Incumbent Eugene Monroe has missed about 75% of the games since he signed his big extension. When he has played, his performance has been somewhere slightly better than decent. The Ravens kicked pro bowl caliber guard Kelechi Osemele out to left tackle, the position he played in college, for the last few games of the 2015 season to get a feel for his ability there before his pending free agency.
With several good options at left guard for next season, the Ravens are left with a dilemma: what to do at left tackle.
The way I see it, there are several options:
1) Assuming the team feels he is a long term fit at Left Tackle, resign Kelechi Osemele to play there and start John Urschel or Ryan Jensen at left guard. This would mean Monroe would likely be gone from Baltimore, a savings of $2.1 million (if cut or traded before June 1st)
2) If the team does not feel that way about Osemele, or he is priced out of the teams range, the team would have to make an assessment of Monroe. If they feel he is not going to bounce back, they let him go and bring in reinforcements in the draft, possibly with a high pick, and/or free agency using the savings. Not likely, but possible.
3) Roll with Monroe at left tackle, but bring in a better backup than Hurst, likely on day 2 or early on day 3 to take over for Monroe in the likely event of an injury, or latest in 2017.
In the event the Ravens decided to go the route of option 1 or 2 however, they should not cut Monroe. The contract the Ravens signed Monroe to is structured in a way which would be very attractive for other teams. While the Ravens would still be on the hook for $6.6 million of the signing bonus, a team who would acquire him would only be on the hook for $6.5 million in 2016. An even bigger advantage of the contract is that it is essentially pay-as-you-go. With no guaranteed money left in any of the last 3 years, a team could acquire him and play it year to year. If Monroe plays well for them in 2016, they have him under contract for the next 2 seasons at reasonable salaries of $6.75 million in 2017 and 2018, with the ability to cut him at any time with no dead money. While the cap hit is not small, the ability to not be locked in could be very valuable to the right team.
A team like the Carolina Panthers could trade for him and slide him in at left tackle, shifting former Raven Michael Oher to right tackle and simultaneously upgrading both tackle positions. The ability to bring in a player like Monroe without committing $20-30 million in guaranteed money, like the Dolphins did with Branden Albert is very attractive. With the lack of available tackles on the free agent market, and the value of a starting left tackle like Russell Okung north of $10 million a year with a nice guarantee, Monroe should have a healthy trade market, possibly including Okung's former team, the Seahawks.
While I doubt the Ravens can expect much more than a 4th rounder for him, stranger things can happen. Maybe the Ravens recoup the 4th and 5th round picks they gave up to acquire him in the first place. Either way, Monroe should provide an interesting storyline for the Ravens as the seek to upgrade their roster to propel themselves back into playoff contention for 2016.