The Baltimore Ravens enjoyed a much more profitable week over the past 7-8 days, particularly with the signing of Dennis Pitta to a contract for $32 million over five years.
The Dennis Pitta Deal
Signing Pitta was priority #1 for the offseason and is now history. There was no doubt that his absence over the first three-fourths of the season took away from the previously efficient passing game. And adding to the top-priority status of retaining Pitta was the arrival of new Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak with his tight-ends-involved schemes. This was a good day for the Baltimore Ravens to get this agreement done by the deadline; and for our full Baltimore Wire take on this, check out our article from three days ago.
The Release of Leach and McClain
On Thursday, the Baltimore Ravens officially released fullback Vonta Leach and linebacker Jameel McClain. These moves will add almost another $5 million to the salary cap – raising the total cap space to about $26 million. Releasing Leach is not any surprise, as his role diminished during the season and the fullback job will now be presumed to go to the more versatile Kyle Juszczyk, last year’s fourth-round pick from Harvard. The Ravens will, however, hope to be able to re-sign McClain.
Statements from the club about each included Newsome saying, “Vonta and Jameel are two of our most important players over the last few seasons, helping us to the playoffs and giving the Ravens the Super Bowl win after the 2012 season.”
Of Leach, the general manager said, “Vonta proved to be one of the best fullbacks in the league, plus he added leadership and toughness to our offense.” Coach Harbaugh commented on Leach by saying, “And, who doesn’t like Vonta? He’s fun to be around, and his personality helped lift the energy at a lot of practices.”
Of McClain, Newsome remarked, “Jameel is a Ravens’ success story who came to us as a rookie free agent. He changed positions from playing on the defensive line and outside to becoming a good inside linebacker and starter. People close to our team understand his commitment to being the best he can be and the leadership he gave on and off the field.”
The need to sign Monroe
Now that the Pitta deal is done, the next priority for the Baltimore Ravens is to similarly lock up Eugene Monroe. This is a must-do. The need is indisputable, and too much has already gone into having him to only now have the 26-year-old tackle in the prime of his career slip away.
According to NFL.com, Monroe is the number one-ranked offensive lineman free agent. The Ravens traded their fourth-round and fifth-round picks to get Monroe in October.
Comcast Sportsnet writer Clifton Brown (in THIS ARTICLE) summed it up well in his opening sentence, “Eugene Monroe is both expensive to keep, and costly to lose.” As I write this on Monday – when a franchise tag decision needs to be made on Monroe within the next hour of typing this sentence – the Ravens would rather not have to do that, though it would buy them time to work out a contract before the deadline of March 11th. It was reported in the Baltimore Sun today that though both sides want to see a deal, they remain far apart in negotiations. Stay tuned on this one.
What to target in the draft?
The two immediately aforementioned items affect the draft, right? Or maybe not? The Baltimore Ravens could actually do well to gain another tight end in the draft, especially if Eric Ebron should somehow still be available for the 17th overall pick. And even with a signing by Monroe, the Ravens have a lot of needs on the offensive line, and there are a number of quality tackles available.
Actually, there is a lot of quality of everything available. All reports from sources near and far who covered the Combine are singing the praises of the depth of this class of draftees – many veteran writers saying it is the best ever. Some of the 40-yard dash times by giant young men are absolutely stunning. This is really going to be interesting. The Baltimore Ravens draft in rounds one, two, three, and six … along with having four compensatory picks.