Will Ravens keep Monroe without using tag?

Will Ravens keep Monroe without using tag?
March 1, 2014, 10:00 am
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Mike Florio talks the merits of re-signing Dennis Pitta

(Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports)

Eugene Monroe is both expensive to keep, and costly to lose. That puts Monroe in a good spot this weekend, as the Ravens try to sign him to a new contract before Monday’s deadline to use the franchise tag.

Now that Dennis Pitta is under contract, the Ravens can use the franchise tag on Monroe, a 26-year-old left tackle in the prime of his career. However, according to NFL.com, the official franchise tag number for offensive linemen will be $11.65 million, now that the per-team salary cap has reached $133 million.

The Ravens would prefer not to franchise Monroe at $11.654 million. They want to sign him to a long-term deal before the start of free agency March 11, so they can solidify the left tackle position, and focus on other priorities like re-signing inside linebacker Daryl Smith.

Using the franchise tag on Monroe would be expensive for the Ravens, but it would buy them more time to work out a long-term deal. It would also keep Monroe off the free agent market, where he will be coveted. The Dolphins and Cardinals have been reported as two teams with strong interest in Monroe. If Monroe leaves, the Ravens might be forced to re-sign free agent Michael Oher and start him at left tackle. That is not the Ravens’ best game plan for improving their offensive line.

Signing Pitta before Monday was good for both the Ravens and for Pitta. The Ravens want to reach a similar resolution with Monroe. They traded their fourth-round and fifth-round picks to get Monroe in October. To keep from losing Monroe in March, the Ravens will have to write another big check soon, one way or another.