After selecting Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley in the first round of the April’s draft, the Ravens tried to trade veteran left tackle Eugene Monroe. However, Baltimore was unable to find a taker on the trade market and on Wednesday the team cut him loose.
Yes, there are some red flags for Monroe. For starters, the tackle has missed 16 games with injury over the past two years. Monroe has also been a vocal advocate for marijuana to be removed from the league’s banned substance list and Baltimore officials apparently took umbrage with his focus in that area.
However, there’s also a lot to like. When healthy, Monroe can be an impact player and can slide into the starting lineup for several NFL teams. Where could Monroe wind up? Here’s our list of the eight teams who could make a play for him:
Arizona Cardinals — Left tackle isn’t a concern in the desert, as Jared Veldheer will continue to handle Carson Palmer‘s blindside, but right tackle is a bit more murky. After losing both Bobby Massie and Bradley Sowell to free agency, the Cardinals are counting on 2015 first-round pick D.J. Humphries to take on a starting role. Humphries didn’t play a single snap during his rookie season, and frustrated Arizona management to the point that head coach Bruce Arians began referring to him as “knee deep” (re: Arians’ knee vs. Humphries’ posterior). If Humphries has matured over the past year or so, adding Monroe to play on the right side wouldn’t make much sense. But if the Cardinals still have questions about their talented yet raw sophomore tackle, Monroe could be a welcome veteran addition.
Chicago Bears — Finding a starting left tackle in the seventh round — as the Bears did with Charles Leno in 2014 — is certainly an accomplishment, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that Leno simply wasn’t that productive during the 2015 campaign. In 16 games (13 starts), Leno graded out as just the 55th-best tackle in the NFL among 77 qualifiers, according to Pro Football Focus. If Chicago wants to contend in 2016, it will need better play on the blindside, and Monroe would almost certainly represent an upgrade, acting as a finishing touch to an offensive line that’s already seen additions such as Bobby Massie, Nate Chandler, and Cody Whitehair over the past several months.
Indianapolis Colts — The Colts are clearly intent on keeping Andrew Luck upright in 2016, having spent three draft picks on offensive linemen in April. While some of the spots along Indy’s front five are settled, right tackle could be up for grabs (although general manager Ryan Grigson had said he’d like to see Joe Reitz win the job). The Colts haven’t been shy about acquiring veterans in the past, having sacrificed draft pick compensation for Vontae Davis, Trent Richardson, Billy Winn, and others in recent years. If the club wants a solid veteran to lock down the right side, instead of relying on a cavalcade of mid-tier options, Monroe could be on their radar.
New England Patriots — Like the Colts, the Patriots have utilized trades to augment their roster — in 2015, they made a league-leading nine deals with other clubs, and they’ve acquired veterans such as Akeem Ayers, Keshawn Martin, Jonathan Casillas, Jonathan Bostic, and Akiem Hicks via the trade route over the past several years. In a trade, Monroe would have been a different animal, as he’s a more high-profile name and costs more than any of the players brought in by New England via swap recently. Now, he holds even more appeal as a free agent. If the Pats did sign Monroe to man right tackle, they’d likely release fellow offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer or Marcus Cannon (or both). On the surface, Monroe doesn’t seem like a Bill Belichick-esque addition, but New England has made surprising moves in the past.
New York Giants — Many draft observers believed Giants 2015 first-round pick Ereck Flowers was best-suited to play guard or right tackle out of the gate. Instead, New York plugged him in on the left side following an injury to Will Beatty, and Flowers proceeded to grade out as one of the four worst blindside protectors in the league, per PFF. Veteran Marshall Newhouse, the club’s projected right tackle, also ranked as a bottom-10 option at the position. The Giants need help up front, perhaps more so than any team in the NFL outside of Seattle, so it was no surprise to learn that they were talking trade with Baltimore prior to Monroe’s release and have already started courting him since he became a free agent.
San Diego Chargers — Shortly after word leaked out regarding Monroe’s release, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com listed the Chargers as a potential suitor along with the Seahawks and Giants. On the surface, the Chargers seem adequately set at tackle with King Dunlap covering Philip Rivers‘ blindside and Joe Barksdale at right tackle. Still, while Barksdale graded out as the No. 21 overall tackle in the NFL last year according to Pro Football Focus’ metrics, Dunlap has been injury prone in the past.
San Francisco 49ers — By almost any metric, San Francisco’s offensive line was among the worst in the NFL last season. The unit ranked second with 53 sacks allowed, and placed 31st in pass protection and 32nd in run blocking according to Football Outsiders’ data. All-Pro Joe Staley clearly isn’t a problem at left tackle, but uninspiring options such as Erik Pears and Trent Brown are among the candidates to start opposite him on the right side. The 49ers are in the midst of a complete rebuild, so perhaps adding a veteran like Monroe doesn’t make sense given their current roster makeup. But keeping Blaine Gabbert or Colin Kaepernick (or whomever else starts at quarterback in 2016) off the ground should still be a goal, and Monroe would signify an improvement.
Seattle Seahawks — The Seahawks are mentioned in connection with nearly every available offensive lineman, but the club simply hasn’t shown any willingness to invest in its front five. After losing Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy in free agency, Seattle will rely on the likes of Garry Gilliam, Bradley Sowell, J’Marcus Webb, and Mark Glowinski up front. Offensive line coach Tom Cable is regarded as a masterful teacher, and he can probably turn some of those unheralded options into contributors. But it’s hard to imagine that the Seahawks would turn down an opportunity to add an immediate starter like Monroe, especially if the asking price is minimal.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.