The Ravens made a surprising move Tuesday night, addressing their struggling offensive line by agreeing to send multiple draft picks to the Jacksonville Jaguars in a trade to acquire left tackle Eugene Monroe.
Well, that’s assuming the Ravens didn’t acquire the 300-pounder to play wide receiver or tight end.
No, Monroe is a left tackle, and a pretty good one. He has not been selected to a Pro Bowl, but his performance has not been far below that level. He started 62 games for the Jaguars after they selected him eighth overall in 2009, 15 picks before the Ravens drafted Michael Oher, their starting right tackle.
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The writing is on the wall for incumbent left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who rode the bench last season, an exercise bike early in training camp and a party bus last week. McKinnie’s insertion into the starting lineup in last year’s playoffs was a big catalyst for the Super Bowl run, but at 34, he is just not a guy you can count on week in and week out at one of the game’s most important positions.
Monroe, if he can find his form from 2011 and 2012, would represent a substantial upgrade over McKinnie. Pro Football Focus graded Monroe as the NFL's 10th-best left tackle in 2012 and 15th best tackle overall. He was beaten for just five sacks and allowed 34 pressures overall. McKinnie was on pace to allow 52 pressures overall this season.
But just as important, at least considering how the first four games have gone for the Ravens rushing offense, Monroe is a willing and capable run blocker. He has received positive run blocking grades from Pro Football Focus in his previous four seasons while helping to pave the way for Pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
McKinnie has not been a consistent performer in the running game during his three seasons with the Ravens, usually doing just enough to get in the way. He is by no means the sole reason that the Ravens are averaging just 2.6 yards per carry this season, but only Oher has been graded worse as a run blocker by Pro Football Focus.
Monroe has not gotten off to a good start this season, but then again, he was playing for what might be the least talented team in the NFL, one that has been outscored by 98 points in four games. He allowed one sack and 15 total pressures. Maybe a change of scenery -- and a change of quarterbacks -- will get him back on track.
We don’t yet know what the Ravens are offering up as compensation, but one would assume they aren’t giving up a high draft choice for a player who has one year left on his contract. Either way, though, this is an aggressive move by general manager Ozzie Newsome, who obviously thinks the Ravens needed some help but are still title contenders.
The hope is that solidifying the left tackle spot with Monroe will have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the offensive line. Flacco’s blind side should be better protected if Monroe does, indeed, replace McKinnie there. But it should also be good news for Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, who have found little running room so far this season.