When the Ravens made the surprising move to acquire left tackle Eugene Monroe in October -- it was the first midseason trade of general manager Ozzie Newsome's tenure -- they weren't just doing it to try to patch up an offensive line that was taking on water. The team saw it as a rare long-term opportunity.
For the first dozen years of their existence, the Ravens had one of the greatest blindside protectors in the history of the game in Jonathan Ogden, whom they had selected with the fourth overall pick in 1996. But after Ogden retired in 2007, they were unsuccessful in their attempts to solidify that critical position.
While making five straight playoff appearances is a blessing that was earned through smart management, talent evaluation and player development, it came with a bit of a curse: The Ravens have not had a pick in the first 20 selections of the NFL draft since 2008. That, of course, will change two months from now.
As a result, it was a challenge for them to find in the draft a quality left tackle to protect quarterback Joe Flacco.
They thought they might have found one in Jared Gaither, a fifth-round supplement pick in 2007, but we know how that turned out. And then in 2009 they used the 23rd overall pick to select Michael Oher, the fourth tackle to come off the board. Oher twice flopped at left tackle and struggled at right tackle last season. He is now generating little buzz on the free-agent market.
So when the Jacksonville Jaguars, who selected Monroe 15 more picks before Oher in 2009, made Monroe available in a trade, the Ravens jumped on the opportunity, trading a pair of mid-round picks in the hopes that they could eventually convince Monroe, whose wife has family in the area, to re-sign with a winning organization.
As I have written a few times on this blog before, it was a move the Ravens probably had to make if they wanted to acquire a top-10-type talent at the left tackle position. Newsome admitted as much during Wednesday's news conference to celebrate the signing of Monroe to a five-year, $37.5 million contract.
"We want to continue to be drafting at the end of the draft because it's not a whole lot of fun to go through those Mondays," Newsome said, alluding to the days after Ravens losses. "But that was probably the impetus for us to make the trade, that we felt we would be in the playoffs and good tackles don't make it down that far."
And while the Ravens were patient in their negotiations with Monroe (and ultimately rewarded for it with a team-friendly deal), Newsome said that even at pick No. 17, where the Ravens will pick in May's NFL draft, they would probably miss out on one of the top tackle prospects in this year's draft class.
"The top two or three tackles will probably be gone by [pick No. 15] this year," Newsome said. "So getting the opportunity to get one is a very positive thing because you can't [count on] the draft. There are tackles that end up playing in the league that don't get drafted at the top of the draft, but the majority of them do."
That's why even though the Monroe trade wasn't enough to save the sinking ship that was the offensive line last season, the Ravens will be poised to benefit from the deal for the next few years.