The mid-season trade can be one of the more exciting things about professional sports. It can instantly upgrade, uplift, and energize your team, as well as the fan base. Mid-season trades in the NFL are less common than in MLB, the NBA, and the NHL, however, this week saw not only the Ravens, but also their AFC North division rival Steelers complete trades to acquire hoped-for upgrades to their respective offensive lines.
Late Tuesday night, word leaked that the Ravens were on the verge of completing a deal for Jacksonville Offensive Tackle, Eugene Monroe. The compensation back to the Jaguars for Monroe was 4th and 5th round picks in the 2014 Draft. Once he learns enough of the playbook, Monroe looks to be stepping into the starting lineup at Left Tackle, replacing the underperforming Bryant McKinnie.
Not to be outdone, the Pittsburgh Steelers acquired Arizona Cardinals Offensive Tackle, Levi Brown, on Wednesday for a conditional draft choice. With a Bye this weekend, the Steelers will get an extra week to evaluate Brown and decide whether he will replace incumbent Left Tackle, Mike Adams. Adams, a 2nd round pick in 2012, has had a pretty rough start to the season culminating in a performance last Sunday that saw him give up 3 ½ of the 5 sacks given up to the Minnesota Vikings.
So which of these rivals was able to make the best trade? Let’s look at the tale of the tape:
The Jags chose Monroe, 26, with the 8th pick in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. Standing 6 feet 5 inches and weighing 306 pounds, Monroe has the prototypical size of a Left Tackle and has played pretty well for a bad Jacksonville squad. Although he is off to a slow start in 2013, Pro Football Focus rated Monroe as a top-6 Offensive Tackle in 2011 and a top-15 in 2012.
Arizona chose Brown, 29, with the 5th pick in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft. Brown stands 6 feet 6 inches and weighs 324 pounds. Brown is coming off a triceps injury that cost him all of the ’12 season and did not receive high marks from Pro Football Focus over the previous four seasons.
Both the Jaguars and Cardinals picked up significant money, making both contracts cap-friendly for the acquiring teams. Monroe’s deal will expire at the end of the season and his play will determine whether the Ravens decide to extend him or not. Brown’s contract requires no more guaranteed money, making it very easy for the Steelers to cut their losses at season’s end with no lasting impact.
Overall, the easy “winner” here is Baltimore. Eugene Monroe will be the clear starter at Left Tackle, once he gets up to speed with the playbook. Monroe is younger and has played at a higher level, especially in recent years.
Brown on the other hand, has been looked at as one of the problems and not one the solutions for an underperforming Cardinals team since he was drafted. While he may end up a starter after the Bye, Brown may only be a marginal upgrade to Mike Adams covering Ben Roethlisberger’s blind side. When you factor in the limited dollars committed long-term and the low price tag, Brown wasn’t necessarily a bad acquisition for the Steelers, he’s just not at the same level as Eugene Monroe.
As I wrote previously, mid-season trades are very rare in the NFL, even more so for the Baltimore Ravens. The Monroe deal marks the first in-season deal in the history of the team.
With limited cap space available and history telling us Ozzie Newsome is incredibly unlikely to make another trade, I doubt the Ravens will be adding any players that aren’t walking in off the street. However, that’s not stopping me from listing a couple players who would make great additions to the Purple and Black, if the Wizard of Oz is still itching to make some deals.
Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee Titans: Britt has unquestioned athletic ability and playmaking skills, but has been a real knucklehead while with the Titans. Tennessee is open to trading Britt, but it will be interesting to see if any team out there offers anything of value. If healthy and on his best behavior, Britt would definitely be an upgrade to the Ravens wide receiver corp.
Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns: Okay, this is pure speculation on my part. Cameron is on a tear for Cleveland and likely would cost way too much for the Ravens, especially considering Cleveland is a division rival. With that said, did anyone expect them to trade Trent Richardson?
John Sullivan, C, Minnesota Vikings: Again, this is totally made up, but I wanted to find a decent Center to include on this list. Sullivan, off to a slow start this year, has been rated as one of the top Centers in the NFL by Pro Football Focus over the previous two years. If the Vikings continue to have a tough go of it leading up to the October 29th Trade Deadline, maybe Sullivan will be floated out to teams like the Ravens in need of an upgrade at Center.