Dolphins 'Plan To Pursue' Eugene Monroe
Count the Miami Dolphins as one of the teams hoping left tackle Eugene Monroe doesn't come to a long-term agreement with the Ravens.
The Dolphins "very much" like Monroe and "plan to pursue" him if he hits the open market on March 11, according to The Miami Herald.
Ravens brass is working on keeping him locked up, however, and Head Coach John Harbaugh said he is "optimistic" the two sides will come to an agreement, but a deal reportedly isn't imminent. He won't come cheap, as Monroe made it clear he will not give Baltimore a discount for his services.
If Monroe slips through the Ravens' hands, they would be losing what Pro Football Focus (PFF) believes is the best free agent tackle this offseason. He received an 20.4 grade for the 2013 season, by far the best grade of any free agent with Kansas City Chiefs tackle Branden Albert coming in a distant second at* * 11.5.
"A combination of youth, consistency, balance, and upside lands Eugene Monroe in the top spot in the 2014 market," wrote PFF's Jake Liscow. "With other left tackles on the market featuring one flaw or another, be it age, injury, or an off season, Monroe stands out. After taking over Baltimore's left tackle position in Week 6, he posted 11 straight positively-graded games."
Liscow notes Monroe's positive grades in Baltimore are especially impressive after being traded to a new system with an offensive line that struggled overall and he often "played on an island."
At 26 years old, entering his prime, Monroe is a commodity that any tackle-needy team would desire, as the Dolphins prove. That may be an incentive for Monroe to hit the open market.
If Monroe doesn't return, the Ravens could put even more focus on re-signing Michael Oher, but PFF's Pete Damilatis doesn't think there is a better alternative than Monroe.
"The Ravens could try to replace Monroe, but they won't find a better option elsewhere," Damilatis wrote. "The only left tackle who compares to him is Branden Albert, who isn't nearly as effective a run blocker. Others like Anthony Collins and Jared Veldheer have promise, but aren't as proven. And the spotty play of the highly-touted rookie tackles this season showed us how risky it is to rely on a first-round draft pick.
"A franchise left tackle in his prime, Monroe won't come cheap. But given the success he's already had in Baltimore and the lack of alternatives, the Ravens absolutely need to keep him."
So, will the Ravens be able to lock him up?
ESPN's Jamison Hensley doesn't think so, predicting that Monroe will test the market.
Could Ravens Land Safety Jarius Byrd?
There's no question that if the Buffalo Bills allow Jarius Byrd to hit the free market, he will be one of the most-coveted safeties.
He's the top-ranked free agent safety, per PFF, and would fit as an excellent complement to rookie Matt Elam, who the Ravens want to move to his more natural strong safety position.
Is there any way the Ravens could land Bryd if the Bills don't lock him up?
"No argument from me that Byrd is the best free safety available," wrote Hensley. "If he does hit the market, Byrd will command a lot of money. I wouldn't rule out the Ravens because of the increased cap. I would be surprised if the Ravens did spend that money because their focus needs to be on significantly improving the offensive side of the ball."
Reports indicate the salary cap is expected to exceed $130 million, which would give the Ravens more flexibility in signing free agents. And the Ravens would surprise many if they used the draft to find Elam's new partner. It's unlikely they would want two young safeties roaming in coverage.
"Byrd is a playmaking safety and is as steady as they come," wrote PFF's John Castellane. "With the emphasis on pass catching tight ends and multiple wide receiver formations growing, players like Byrd will be in high demand. Last year he made roughly $6.9 million under the franchise designation, but if he hits the open market this year he will be looking at a contract closer to the $10 million a year that the highest-paid safeties are getting."
That's a steep price tag, especially for the Ravens, who are also looking to upgrade on the offensive side of the ball.
Of course, Byrd may not even become an option.
After franchising Byrd last offseason, the Bills will tag him again if they can't work out a long-term deal, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.
More Free Agency Questions
Hensley answered a few more free agency and contract questions in a fan Q&A. You can find all his questions and answers here, and below are three:
Josh (Baltimore): Who could you see the Ravens signing to fill in the gap at center?
Hensley: The Ravens need to go after Alex Mack from Cleveland. He would solve a lot of problems in the middle.
Andrew (Columbus, OH): Torrey Smith, any chance we look into locking him up sooner, rather than later?
Hensley: I know the Suggs extension happened this month, but the Ravens needed to do that to free up cap room. But most extensions, especially for players getting their first big deal, typically happen after the draft and before the season begins.
Kevin (Baltimore): If let go, do you think Brandon Pettigrew would be a good fit for the Ravens?
Hensley: The Ravens liked Pettigrew in the 2009 draft. He was taken 20th overall, three picks ahead of when the Ravens selected offensive tackle Michael Oher. Pettigrew has been a disappointment as a first-round pick, but he isn't a bad tight end. His ability to catch and block is a rare commodity with tight ends these days. If the Ravens use a good chunk of their cap on Dennis Pitta, I'm not sure they're going to spend a lot on another tight end in free agency.
Ravens Not Raising Ticket Prices
The Ravens recently sent out invoices to season ticket holders, and they included no price increases for the 2014 season, per The Baltimore Sun.
The team has raised prices one time in the last five seasons, with a 10 percent increase last year.
"From 2001 to 2009, the Ravens raised ticket prices every other year. However, a down economy and the uncertainty of a lockout before the 2011 season broke that trend" wrote Aaron Wilson. "The increase before last season – their first since 2009 – was planned long before the team beat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. … The Ravens have sold out every game at M&T Bank Stadium and maintain a lengthy waiting list of prospective season ticket holders."
The Ravens ranked sixth in average ticket prices heading into last season, according to the Team Marketing Report's Fan Cost Index, behind the Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets, New England Patriots, New York Giants and Chicago Bears.
Baltimore usually gives its fans a winning experience, going 39-9 at home since 2008.
Browns Cut LB D'Qwell Jackson, Looking For 'More Stability'
After eight years in Cleveland, the Browns cut linebacker and defensive leader D'Qwell Jackson.
The respected veteran was due a $4 million roster bonus on March 16 and had a $3.933 million base salary for 2014 with a salary-cap figure of $9.433 million.
It appeared to be a mutual decision, as the Browns wanted the cap space and Jackson is looking for a fresh start.
It didn't take long for Jackson to command attention. Seven teams – nearly 1/4 of the league – already reached out to Jackson for a free agent visit, according to CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora.
Jackson expressed immense gratitude to the Browns and fans, but now he is looking for a team that can offer "more stability."
"I gave Cleveland everything I had," Jackson told Northeast Ohio Media Group. "This time around I have a chance to choose where I want to go. I've saved my money and it's time for me to experience something different. I hate to say it, but I think it was necessary."
- Me too … @AlbertBreer: Was told they've started putting a radar gun on the quarterbacks' throws at the combine in Indy. Would be interested to see the results. [Twitter]
- @sportswcoleman [105.7 The Fan] : "@jpfask: @sportswcoleman how can the nfl outlaw speaking the n word when they have a team called Redskins?" Common argument* *[Twitter]
- Ravens Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak's new playbook is nearly complete, and it will quickly be sent to quarterback Joe Flacco. "He'll get the playbook as soon as we get it finished, which is very soon after we get back," Harbaugh said at the NFL scouting combine. "It's really done, so he'll get the playbook right away, and I'm sure there will be conversations about Xs and Os to whatever extent is within the rules. And Joe will probably take that and run with it. If you've got a playbook, it's pretty self-explanatory if you know football, and Joe can take it and run with it and prepare for the [organized team activities]. Joe's committed to being at the OTAs." [The Baltimore Sun]
- If the Ravens tag tight end Dennis Pitta, it will be the league – not the team – to designate his position. [WNST]
- @TorreySmithWR: Go to torreysmith.org [for info on charity basketball game] ....see y'all on March 29th at UMD [Instagram]