Carroll County Times

Ravens don't use franchise tag on Monroe

The Baltimore Ravens chose not to apply the franchise tag to left tackle Eugene Monroe or any of their other 12 pending unrestricted free agents.

That means the Ravens have one week to work out a long-term deal with Monroe. If they can't, he will become an unrestricted free agent, which would put Baltimore at risk of losing a potential long-term answer at left tackle.

NFL teams had until 4 p.m. Monday to use a franchise tag on one veteran player, thus preventing that player from becoming an unrestricted free agent.

Had Baltimore franchised Monroe, the team would have had until July 15 to agree on a long-term deal with Monroe. If one had not been agreed upon by that date, Monroe would have played the 2014 season under a one-year contract worth $11.654 million, the average salary of the five highest-paid offensive linemen in the NFL.

Another team could have still signed Monroe under the franchise tag, but that team would owe the Ravens two first-round picks in addition to whatever it paid Monroe.

Baltimore also could have used a transition tag on Monroe but chose not to do that either. Monroe would have still become an unrestricted free agent under the transition tag, but the Ravens would have had five days to match any offer from another team.

Using the transition tag would have required Baltimore being comfortable paying Monroe the average salary of the 10 highest paid offensive linemen in the league ($10.039 million). That's the total that Monroe would have been set to earn had no team signed him and had no long-term deal been signed with the Ravens.

But now, Baltimore is a week away from potentially losing a player it traded two middle-round 2014 draft picks to acquire in October.

Monroe has never been selected to a Pro Bowl, but he is young (26), and he graded out among the better tackles in the NFL during his three months with the Ravens. has Monroe ranked as the fourth-best player among unrestricted free agents and the top offensive lineman.

The Ravens still have time to work out a deal to keep Monroe in Baltimore, but not much.

Other teams can begin talking to pending unrestricted free agents March 8. Players are then free to sign wherever they want come March 11. And it's very much possible that a left tackle needy team like the Miami Dolphins could offer Monroe more than what the Ravens are willing to pay.

The only thing that seems certain is that Monroe, with the franchise and transition tags out of the mix, will either get a lucrative long-term deal from Baltimore or he will get one from someone else.