Eugene Monroe made a slow lap around the locker room Wednesday, shaking handshakes and sharing hugs with his former teammates.
It was Monroe's chance to say goodbye. He just as easily could have said good riddance.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are off to their worst start in franchise history. They're winless through four games, have scored a league-low 31 points and are already getting peppered with questions about the possibility of becoming the second team in NFL history to finish 0-16.
General manager Dave Caldwell responded by trading Monroe, the team's best offensive lineman, to the Baltimore Ravens for two third-day draft picks in 2014. Jacksonville will receive Baltimore's fourth- and fifth-round picks in return for Monroe, the eighth overall selection in the 2009 draft. The deal allowed the Jaguars to move No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel to his more natural position. But it also raised questions about what the rebuilding team will do next.
"That runs through your mind, but what can you do?" tight end Marcedes Lewis said. "We've got 12 games left. If we're thinking about that, then we're doing the wrong thing."
Monroe never really fit in Jacksonville's zone-blocking scheme, which requires aggressive cut blocks. And with Monroe being in the final year of his rookie contract and knowing he would demand more money in free agency than Jacksonville would be willing to pay, it made sense to trade him now and get Joeckel some experience on the left side.
Being 0-4 and non-competitive — the Jaguars have lost all four games by double digits and been outscored 75-8 in the first half — surely made the decision easier.
Several players were stunned by the trade, even in a league in which crazy things happen all the time. But most insisted they didn't view it as an indication that Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley are giving up on the season and planning more trades.
"I addressed that, but I guess if they think that, how can you blame them?" Bradley said. "I wish I could alleviate that for some of the players, but as you know, the NFL is a business. This just popped up, so I understand that, and what I asked of them is just to come back and concentrate and get back to focus and let's go to work."
Bradley called several team leaders Tuesday night to discuss the trade, including running back Maurice Jones-Drew, quarterback Blaine Gabbert, center Brad Meester and guard Uche Nwaneri.
"There are positives for him in this situation and there are positives for the Jaguars in this situation," Nwaneri said. "So you just have to realize the reality of what this business is like and this was something that was done for the organization's future and the organization's well-being."
Nwaneri added that he never thought about anyone else being on the block before the league's Oct. 29 trade deadline. Jones-Drew? Lewis? Maybe linebacker Paul Posluszny?
"You just can't look at it from that perspective or you're going to be walking around like a ghost in here," Nwaneri said. "You just have to move forward."
The Jaguars now have 10 draft picks in 2014. And those are critical for a team that lacks talent on both sides of the ball.
Caldwell and Bradley want to build through the draft. Selecting Joeckel was one of the first steps. Getting him in the right position was another move.
"I've always been a left tackle my entire football career; I've always been on the left side," Joeckel said. "That's just what I'm comfortable with. It's going to be nice going over there and playing on the left side. I'm going to be more comfortable."
The Jaguars have Austin Pasztor and Cam Bradfield competing at right tackle as they prepare for Sunday's game at St. Louis (1-3).
Regardless who gets the nod, the trade was a clear sign that the Jaguars are preparing — and playing — for the future.
"Obviously, this move makes that clear," Jones-Drew said. "But we still can practice hard and better our offense and better our team and do the right things. It gives some young guys some opportunities to make plays and do a great job, and we expect that out of them."
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