Ravens can't compound Monroe mistake with another

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Kelechi Osemele is a heck of a football player.
In a perfect world without a salary cap, the Ravens would re-sign one of the better guards in the NFL and continue their experiment from last December to see if he can be a franchise left tackle. If Osemele couldn’t, Baltimore would just move him back to his normal position and allow him and five-time Pro Bowl selection Marshal Yanda to continue serving as the best guard tandem in the NFL.
But the league doesn’t work that way, and it’s for that reason that the Ravens are probably wise to let their 2012 second-round pick sign elsewhere this week, especially if other teams are willing to pay him upwards of $10 million per year as some reports have indicated.
Osemele is a very good guard who has shown ability to swing outside, but we don’t yet know whether that translates to being a long-term left tackle. Other teams with more cap space and less money invested in the guard position can afford to experiment knowing that they can always move Osemele back to guard where he’s established himself as a commodity approaching Pro Bowl stature. Other teams would be happy to keep Osemele at guard if tackle proves to be too much for him.
But that very scenario is the worst thing that could happen to the Ravens, who have limited cap space and an array of other positional needs after they already extended Yanda’s contract last October. The truth is that Osemele held up admirably at left tackle in his four-game tryout, but he didn’t stand out as a future Pro Bowl player, either. That’s not meant as criticism for a man who was only playing left tackle for the first time since his days at Iowa State, but it is a warning sign that the Ravens shouldn’t spend too drastically on the hope of Osemele being able to solidify the position moving forward.
You can criticize the Ravens for not trying out Osemele at left tackle much sooner — especially with Eugene Monroe having made just 16 starts over the last two years while James Hurst struggled mightily as his understudy — but smart organizations don’t step outside their comfort zone to overpay a relatively-unknown commodity at the position where they really need him.
It’s clear by now that Baltimore made a mistake investing a five-year, $37.5 million contract in Monroe, who played very well in 11 starts after being acquired from the Jacksonville Jaguars during the 2013 season but hasn’t been able to stay on the field since receiving a big payday two years ago. General manager Ozzie Newsome shouldn’t compound that error by paying too much for the mere chance of Osemele being able to stick at left tackle for the long haul.
Other teams have the flexibility to keep an open mind about where the fifth-year lineman will play, but this only works for the Ravens if he becomes their long-term left tackle. Otherwise, they’ve invested an astronomical amount of money at the guard position and still have the same problem protecting Joe Flacco’s blindside.
That doesn’t seem to be a good bet at $10 million per year or more.
For that price, you need more of a sure thing.

2 COMMENTS

  1. […] The Ravens had hoped to keep Osemele and planned to permanently move him to left tackle, but it soon became apparent after they made an “aggressive” offer that interest from competing teams with more salary cap space were going to be too much to overcome. With Osemele having only started four games at left tackle in his NFL career and the Ravens already extending five-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda last fall, it would have been too great a risk to pay Osemele lucrative money solely to play a position where he remains relativel…. […]

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