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Ravens Have Options At Left Tackle


The future of the left tackle position is one of the most intriguing decisions the Ravens have to make over the next few months.

Baltimore still has Eugene Monroe, who they signed to be the franchise left tackle, but the front office could also try to retain pending free-agent Kelechi Osemele. With the No. 6 overall pick in the draft, the Ravens also have the potential to target a premier blindside protector.

"We have some options," General Manager Ozzie Newsome said at the season-review press conference.

Before deciding whether to re-sign Osemele or draft another lineman, the Ravens likely have to determine their course of action with Monroe.

The 28-year-old lineman still has three years left on a reported $37.5 million contract he signed in 2014, but he has missed more games than he has played since signing that deal. Monroe played in just six games in 2015 and completed only three of those because of various injuries.

Monroe ultimately ended up on injured reserve with a shoulder issue, but he has also missed time because of knee and ankle problems, and a concussion.

The trouble with potentially parting ways with Monroe is that it would reportedly lead to [add] $6.6 million in dead money, and Monroe might be the team's best option when he's on the field.  

"When he was healthy, he played really well for us," Newsome said.

Osemele is a relatively new option to bring into the fold. The 2012 second-round pick has played the bulk of his career at left guard, but the Ravens moved him to the outside for the final four games of the season. Osemele performed well in his audition, and that likely helped his market value as he's set to become a free agent on March 15.

Signing Osemele to a long-term deal would require the Ravens to wrap up a significant portion of the salary cap on the offensive line because Monroe and Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda are both under contract. The Ravens aren't flush with cash going into the offseason, so the financial component of that option would be challenging to make work.

But the Ravens gave Osemele a chance at left tackle after a conversation between him and Newsome late in the season, so the Ravens are at least considering that possibility.

"We thought it was a good thing for us to get a chance to watch him over the course of four games, and then also improve his value to the National Football League," Newsome said. "As it was noted, I had a really good conversation with 'K.O.' when the move was made. But that conversation was no different than [conversations] I've had with Yanda and Jimmy [Smith], or with [Pernell] McPhee and Torrey [Smith] and [Paul] Kruger. We will have a chance to look at that."

The other option is the Ravens could bring in a young player through the draft and try to groom him for the job. James Hurst is still on the roster, and Newsome hinted that the Ravens like the idea of developing another young player who they could draft.

"The thing that I really enjoy about John's coaching staff is you have a coach in [Offensive Line Coach] Juan Castillo who does a phenomenal job of developing young players," Newsome said. "That's what you have to have to be competitive year-in and year-out in this league."

The Ravens truly saw the importance of the position in Week 11 when starting quarterback Joe Flacco had his season cut short because a defender crashed into his leg off the blindside after Monroe left the game.

Protecting the franchise quarterback is a clear priority when he returns to the lineup, and that topic will be a top item on the docket when team brass huddles at Owner Steve Bisciotti's home in Florida next week.

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