Ronnie Stanley Jersey

The Baltimore Ravens have a lot of tough decisions to make this offseason. While pending free agents like C.J. Mosley have garnered the most attention from the media, one key piece of the offseason still awaits Baltimore: left tackle Ronnie Stanley’s fifth-year option for 2020.

The Ravens don’t have to make the decision until the deadline in early May, but that doesn’t stop it from being a major question right now. At the NFL scouting combine on Wednesday, general manager Eric DeCosta was asked about Stanley’s status. Though he didn’t talk much about Stanley’s fifth-year option, it’s something Baltimore should exercise.
Last offseason, fifth-year options cost teams $12.525 million for offensive linemen, which means we’ll likely see a number around $13 million for Stanley’s 2020 option. If the Ravens do pick up Stanley’s option, he’d have no worse than the seventh-highest average cap hit among left tackles, according to Over The Cap. But considering the value of left tackles in today’s game and where the salary cap will likely be by the 2020 offseason, it’s a relative bargain.

Young, talented left tackles don’t often hit the free agent market. And for good reason. In the few instances when they do, they tend to make more, like in the case of Nate Solder signing a four-year deal with the New York Giants for $62 million at age 30 last offseason. That’s precisely why the Ravens don’t really have much of a choice here.
As of right now, 16 other left tackles are set to hit free agency in 2020 as unrestricted free agents. Of that group, only eight will be under 29 years old at that time. Of that smaller group, only two others are close to Stanley’s level of play: Miami Dolphins tackle Laremy Tunsil and Detroit Lions tackle Taylor Decker. It’s unlikely either one will be allowed to hit free agency, and hoping for it to happen would be foolish on the part of the Ravens.

Exercising Stanley’s fifth-year option doesn’t stop Baltimore from negotiating a long-term deal that’s more cap-friendly. It only ensures they’ll keep around a talented left tackle for one more season without having to resort to the franchise tag, which was about $14 million in 2018.

The Ravens have let offensive linemen leave in recent seasons only to struggle at those positions the following year. Right tackle Rick Wagner went to the Detroit Lions following the 2016 season and Baltimore failed to replace his play, eventually causing them to select Orlando Brown Jr. in the 2018 NFL draft. Center Ryan Jensen left last offseason, and the Ravens struggled with Matt Skura in his spot. They still have a huge question mark there this offseason. Neither right tackle nor center is as difficult to replace as left tackle, and neither is as disastrous to an offense when not done correctly.

Considering Baltimore is trying to build an offense around quarterback Lamar Jackson, they can’t skimp at an important position. And a talented left tackle is often at the top of the checklist for any offense. If the Ravens truly want to surround Jackson with the talent he’ll need to succeed, Stanley is worth the money he’ll command because the hole he’d leave would be far too big.