When John Harbaugh took the Ravens’ head coaching job in 2008, he quickly found out that future Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden was retiring.
Since then, the Ravens have had a merry-go-round at left tackle that hasn’t always been merry.
First was Jared Gaither in 2008 and 2009.
Re-signing Monroe ends the circling.
Monroe inked his five-year deal worth a reported $37.5 million on Wednesday afternoon. And with that, Baltimore regained stability at the position for the first time since the Ogden days.
“Eugene is going to be an anchor out there at the left tackle spot for many years to come,” Harbaugh said. “That’s what you’re looking for. That’s not easy to do in this league anymore.”
General Manager Ozzie Newsome knows the value of having a top-notch left tackle. He drafted Ogden with his first-ever draft pick in 1996, and didn’t have to worry about the position for more than a decade.
Newsome recounted a conversation from 2004 between he, Owner Steve Bisciotti and former Ravens Pro Personnel Director James Harris. Bisciotti was questioning whether it was worth it to pay Ogden more in salary than three other offensive linemen combined.
“James said, ‘Up until you don’t have a left tackle, you’ll appreciate it,’” Newsome recounted.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to have that, and now to have someone like Eugene at the age that he’s at right now and the promise that he has moving forward, that’s something that we don’t have to address for a long time.”
As Newsome said, most of the best offensive tackles are drafted high in the first round. And since the Ravens are typically drafting near the back of the first round, it’s impossible to secure one without moving up.
The Ravens tried that in 2010, trading up three spots to grab Oher. He was a durable athlete, switching back and forth between both sides, but he didn’t end up being the long-term solution at left tackle as hoped.
So last year, Newsome made a move he had never done before by making a midseason trade, sending Jacksonville fourth- and fifth-round picks for Monroe. Newsome doesn’t like trading picks, but saw it as a rare opportunity.
“We made that trade with intentions of trying to cement a relationship with Eugene that would go beyond those 10 games that he was with our organization,” Newsome said.
Securing Monroe brings stability in every sense of the word.
The former 2009 first-round pick’s play has been steady. He’s the only left tackle chosen in the first round from his draft class that’s still playing left tackle. The second-overall pick, Jason Smith of the St. Louis Rams, isn’t even in the NFL anymore.
Since 2011, Monroe has received a negative grade from Pro Football Focus (PFF) in just four games. He did not get a negative grade in any of his 10 games with the Ravens, despite adjusting to a new system. He received an overall grade of 20.4 on the season, the 12th-highest mark of any tackle in the league.
“I was fully confident that once I was on the field I would perform well, even just having a week of learning the system here,” Monroe said.
The former first-round pick (2009) is also durable. He’s missed just four games during his six-year NFL career, and one was because he was trying to learn the Ravens system after arriving in Baltimore last year. He’s started 73 of 76 games he’s played in.
He’s a tireless worker, both during the season and offseason. Even while going through the turmoil of free agency approaching, Monroe was working out once or twice a day at the Under Armour Performance Center. He squeezed in an early-morning workout at team headquarters before going home to get ready for his 2:30 p.m. press conference on Wednesday.
“That’s the kind of leader you’re looking for,” Harbaugh said.
“On behalf of the coaches, I can’t express enough how excited we are as a coaching staff that Eugene Monroe is going to be our left tackle for many years to come.”