The Ravens have a big decision ahead for their offensive line.
The two starting tackles – Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher – are both free agents and expected to garner interest on the open market. The Ravens likely only have enough money to sign one of them to a long-term deal because they are reportedly tight on salary cap space next season.
As Monroe and Oher head into the unfamiliar territory of free agency, both expressed interest in returning to Baltimore, but know money will be tight.
"This is definitely an awesome place, and I definitely would love to be here," Monroe said. "I loved my time here, feel like I fit in pretty well. I came in here and played well every game, and I'd like the opportunity to do that here again."
Oher, a 2009 first-round pick by the Ravens, stressed that the decision is out of his control.
"I've enjoyed being a Raven," he said. "I'll always be a Raven, I love it. But I don't know, it's not in my hands to get done."
Pundits have speculated the Ravens will make a push to re-sign Monroe, who they acquired from the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for fourth-and fifth- round picks in the 2014 draft. The Ravens traded for Monroe in early October, and he took over the starting left tackle job in Week 6.
Monroe started every game after cracking the starting lineup, and was one of the offense's best players. According to the statistical analysis website Pro Football Focus (PFF), Monroe was the team's best offensive player by far. He earned a cumulative grade of 25.0 for the season, and the next best offensive player was Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda (10.7).
Monroe was the ninth-ranked tackle in the NFL, according to PFF.
"Coming here was refreshing for me, refreshing for my family," Monroe said. "It's been a good year for me, starting out in Jacksonville and then getting a little life coming here and playing really well. A lot has happened."
While Monroe blossomed during his time with the Ravens, Oher struggled this season. He was flagged for three false start penalties, three holding calls and allowed 10 sacks. Oher finished as the fifth lowest rated (-13.6) player on offense, which was the lowest overall grade he has received from PFF in his five-year career.
The Ravens had reportedly entered into contract discussions with Oher last season, but the two sides never worked out an extensions and he's unsure about what will happen in the coming months.
"I'll have to talk to my agent about it," Oher said. "I'm still a Raven right now until I'm not."
Regardless of whether the Ravens re-sign Oher or Monroe, a priority for the offseason is to make improvements along an offensive line that struggled to open holes in the running game and allowed quarterback Joe Flacco to get sacked 48 times.
"I can only work to improve myself," Monroe said. "As far as the entire unit, that's up to coaches, that's up to front office, however they handle it. But I'll do my best to improve my performance, and that's a goal of mine every year."