The Ravens offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley discusses the challenges the coronavirus has created as well as his contract.
Ronnie Stanley knew the questions about his contract would come.
If the Ravens left tackle felt any discomfort with the topic, he did not show it Wednesday during a Zoom call with Baltimore media members. He parried the repeated probes as deftly as he might an oncoming pass rusher.
“We’ve been in talks for the last couple years now,” he said. “I’m comfortable with where we are in that regard. When the time comes, it will come.”
Stanley was already in line for a massive payday after he established himself as perhaps the best pass blocker in football last season. But his economic ceiling soared higher last month when Houston Texans left tackle Laremy Tunsil signed a three-year, $66 million extension. As good as Tunsil was in 2019, Stanley was better, making first-team All-Pro and grading as the best left tackle in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.
“I was just super happy that he got what he got,” Stanley said. “I was happy because he deserved it. I felt in my heart of hearts that this position is one of the top two or three hardest positions on the field. So for him to get respected like that with how much he got paid made me very happy for him, because he deserves it.”
Stanley and Tunsil were the top two tackle prospects in the 2016 draft. The Ravens went with Stanley at No. 6 overall while Tunsil slipped to No. 13, in part because a photo emerged of him smoking marijuana through a gas mask. The pair will seemingly always be linked, but Stanley did not specifically say that he sees Tunsil’s deal as a starting point for his own extension talks.
“I definitely want to get paid my value and what I’m worth or what I feel I’m worth,” he said. “That part of it’s important, but at the end of the day, I don’t think money’s the most important thing to me.”
On a conference call with season-ticket holders earlier this month, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said he’s continuing to negotiate a potential extension with Stanley’s agent, Kim Miale. The Ravens would like to complete a deal, not only to lock down one of their most important players but to create more wiggle room under the 2020 salary cap.
Stanley isn’t sure how he’ll feel if negotiations carry into the season. Many players refuse to talk about their contract status once games begin.
“I would probably have a better answer when training camp starts, if it starts,” he said, alluding to schedule uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic. “I’m kind of like in no rush when it comes to that right now.”
Stanley’s importance goes beyond his prowess at protecting the edge. With Marshal Yanda’s retirement in March, he became the veteran standard bearer for the team’s offensive line.
“I think guys, even when Marshal was there, looked to me in a different sense than they did with Marshal,” he said. “Guys have definitely been more open to asking me questions and letting me take in that leadership role for them.”
In the wake of Yanda’s retirement, the Ravens added several linemen who could contribute immediately, including third-round pick Tyre Phillips out of Mississippi State, fourth-round pick Ben Bredeson out of Michigan and veteran free-agent acquisition D.J. Fluker.
Stanley will play a significant role helping those players get up to speed.
“It’s definitely going to be a crash course,” he said. “Especially for the new guys, the younger guys, with the type of offense we run — very detail-oriented. … Luckily, we have more than half our returners coming back. I’m happy to be one of those people who already know what’s going on. There are going to be guys who have a lot of questions coming in.”
Much of the necessary fine-tuning will have to wait until the Ravens linemen gather in person, something they’ve yet to do because of the pandemic. They’ve stayed in regular contact and are currently engaged with the team’s virtual offseason program, but that’s no substitute for live repetitions.
“It’s super-difficult,” Stanley said when asked about building chemistry virtually. “I really want to bring everyone together, but I know it’s pretty much impossible right now. Definitely in the future, that’s something I’d want to do, bring us all together to do drills. It’s just really hard to get those types of things without being physically there to really correct the technique and the little things. That’s what really matters.”
He’s confident in his individual preparations and said his best advice to younger teammates would be to avoid any long stretches of inactivity. “This isn’t rest time,” he said, quoting advice he received a few years back from former All-Pro center Olin Kreutz.
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Stanley, who has served as the team’s representative on the NFL Players Association board, added that safety must be paramount as the league discusses how to resume operations.
“I know people want to see sports. I know that’s very important to their well-being mentally,” he said. “And I’m all for that. But first comes the players’ health and safety and their families’ health and safety as well. So people need to be aware it’s not just players … they have families they have to go home to every day, and we all as a union want to be on the same page. As much as we all want to see football back and all of the sports back, we love our families just as much.”
When the games do resume, the Ravens will be favored to retain their status as one of the NFL’s heavyweights after going a league-best 14-2 in the 2019 regular season. That idea does not daunt Stanley, who spends much of his professional life on an island against the most fearsome pass rushers in the world.