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Michael Oher describes the size of McKinnie's lunch

Michael Oher describes the size of McKinnie's lunch.

This week, the Steelers and Ravens both made trades in an attempt to shore up their team’s blind spot. In Baltimore, Bryant McKinnie has taken every snap at left tackle this season — with mixed results. According to Pro Football Focus, McKinnie has been average as a pass blocker (although he’s allowed 11 quarterback hurries) and poor as a run blocker. After making a huge investment in Joe Flacco, Baltimore now must focus on protecting their franchise quarterback. Obviously the Ravens weren’t happy with McKinnie, but is Monroe the answer?

PFF gives Monroe slightly better grades, but Mike Tanier wrote a pretty scathing review after studying film on the the former Jaguars’ left tackle. On the other hand, PFF loved Monroe last season, ranking him as their 10th best left tackle. So was this a good deal for Baltimore? For Jacksonville?

The Jaguars end seems easier to analyze. Monroe is a free agent after the season, and the team didn’t view him as an elite left tackle (after all, the Jaguars drafted Luke Joeckel with the expectation that he would take over after Monroe left). That left them with three options: trade him now, let him play out the season and then walk, or franchise him and try to trade him for more in the spring. The latter would be the riskiest option, given that (1) they would be overpaying him, since he isn’t worth franchise tackle money, and (2) Kansas City was unable to unload Branden Albert last season (and for all we know, the Jaguars unsuccessfully tried to deal Monroe last year, too). So for Jacksonville, the benefit to keeping him would be getting 12 more games out of Monroe in a lost season and a 2015 compensatory pick (probably a 4th or 5th rounder).

Instead, Jacksonville received the Ravens 4th and 5th rounders next season. That’s hardly a good return on the 8th overall pick the team invested in him, but that’s a sunk cost at this point (and goes on the ledger of prior management). Trading him was the right move, although we don’t know if they could have gotten more from another team.

As for Baltimore? The team is now without its 4th, 5th, and 7th rounders last season, and may not have much to show for it in 2014 (the 7th was a conditional pick for A.Q. Shipley, currently backing up Gino Gradkowski at center). Baltimore does not have much cap room, which (1) will make it more difficult to resign Monroe (although he already has stated that he wants to stay in Baltimore), and (2) makes it even more important for the team to hit on its draft picks. The outlook isn’t much better for 2014: perhaps the Ravens can restructure the contract of Terrell Suggs, but Baltimore already has $115M allocated to just 40 players next year (and Haloti Ngata ($16M), Flacco ($14.8M), and Lardarius Webb ($10.5M) all have huge cap numbers).

The good news is that the Ravens forced the Jaguars to eat much of Monroe’s 2013 salary, and now have a replacement/motivator for McKinnie. The AFC North is wide open, so you can understand Baltimore giving up future picks to win now. I’d call this trade a mild win-win for both teams, but it comes with some baggage for both squads (the Jaguars will have paid Monroe over $3M this year for four mediocre starts, while the Ravens are playing the perilous game of “we don’t need late round draft picks.”). The hidden variable for Baltimore: if the Ravens are able to trade McKinnie for a late round pick, that would mitigate some of the concerns about the 2014 Draft.

The Steelers trade with the Cardinals for Levi Brown seems more like lose-lose. Bruce Arians was very high on his left tackle back in April:

In addressing one of the Cardinals primary needs this offseason, the new head coach quickly realized the void Brown left last season and made him a centerpiece for the offensive line’s plans in 2013.

“I think that we’ve got an elite player (in Brown) who was out,” Arians said. “Once we put that elite left tackle back in there, everything is better.”

By the end of April, Arians must have thought his team had turned the left side of the line into a strength, as the Cardinals used the 7th overall pick to draft left guard Jonathan Cooper. Since then, Cooper suffered a season-ending injury in the preseason and now the team has moved on from Brown.  Of course, Levi Brown was never an elite left tackle.  In 2011, PFF had him down as allowing 11 sacks (tied for third most in the league) and 40 hurries (fourth most).  Brown missed all of 2012 with a torn triceps, and has been terrible in pass protection through four games this year, too.

One of the left tackles Brown has been better than is Pittsburgh’s Mike Adams. Fortunately, the Steelers didn’t give up much to get Brown (a conditional late round pick), and are having the Cardinals eat most of his remaining salary, too (and since he is not a free agent after the year, Arizona has a dead money hit for 2014). On the other hand, this is just a 12-game rental for the Steelers — with a $6M salary in 2014, it’s hard to imagine Pittsburgh keeping him around. And that begs the question, why are the 0-4 Steelers trading draft picks to rent a bad player? Perhaps even a slight upgrade is worth it to keep Ben Roethlisberger upright. Or maybe Pittsburgh sees themselves just two games (pending Buffalo/Cleveland) out of first place, and with only one division loss (which came on the road, and therefore can be more easily avenged)? It’s hard to imagine Brown being any sort of upgrade, but if all the Steelers gave up was a 7th round pick, I suppose it can’t hurt to take a chance on the former first round pick.

As for Arizona, the main benefit is addition by subtraction. Brown has been nothing short of a disaster, and it was time for the team to move on. But by eating most of the salary/cap hit, it’s hard to call this a positive move for the team.

In any event, let’s close with a data dump. By my count, Monroe and Brown will become the 20th and 21st offensive linemen since the merger to start for two different teams in the same season. The glamorous list, below:

Mark LeVoir201129STL3BAL1
Richie Incognito200926STL9BUF3
Toniu Fonoti200524SDG2MIN1
Kelvin Garmon200226SDG5DAL5
Chris Terry200227CAR10SEA5
Isaac Davis199725SDG12NOR2
Jack Linn199326DET2CIN1
Vernice Smith199328CHI5WAS3
Brian Blados199129IND3CIN3
Jim Lachey198825WAS14RAI1
Bruce E. Davis198731HOU7RAI4
Greg Koch198732MIN6MIA1
Dwight Wheeler198732SDG3RAI1
Kent Hill198629HOU13RAM2
Steve August198430SEA6PIT1
Jim Romano198425HOU7RAI2
Tim Stokes198131GNB4NYG1
Gordon Gravelle197930RAM3NYG3
Marv Montgomery197628NOR7DEN1
  • Richie

    Monroe and Brown will become the 20th and 21st offensive linemen since the merger to start for two different teams in the same season.

    That’s a crazy stat. Just shows how rare in-season trades of useful NFL talent are.

  • bengt

    And that begs the question, why are the 0-4 Steelers trading draft picks to rent a bad player?
    The Steelers expect to receive a lot of compensatory picks in 2014, a third rounder for Mike Wallace among them. Also, LG Ramon Foster had to leave the Vikings game (I think with a rotator cuff injury), and Kelvin Beachum was the only viable second-team OLiner and the first reserve for all five positions.