As the NFL’s league year gets set to open this week, the Baltimore Ravens’ biggest needs appear to be clear.
In a twist no more surprising than the GRAMMY’s nominating truly incredible performers like Black Pumas for major awards only to give the biggest to forgettable, melodic Taylor Swift music instead, the Baltimore Ravens need help at wide receiver.
That’s not to say their only need is at receiver. The Ravens reportedly signed free-agent guard Kevin Zeitler to a three-year deal March 15 to beef up their interior line. They’ll now have to make a decision about what to do at center, and should the Ravens trade Orlando Brown Jr., they’ll need a right tackle.
Some of these answers could be found internally. Less likely to be answered internally is the edge-rush situation. The Orioles might well have more answers in their starting rotation as the Ravens do in the edge-rush department. Pernell McPhee is back … which is good! Jaylon Ferguson remains … so there’s that. Otherwise? Yeesh.
Despite that, our attention remains at receiver. It’s understandable. This organization has been seeking a prototypical “No. 1” receiver since they wore those helmets that we have to pretend never happened. Their failures at the position have been roughly as anonymous as all of their many successes in doing just about everything else. Even as Marquise “Hollywood” Brown has shown signs of being a solid to high-level receiver, he’s been perceived as another of the many misses the franchise has experienced at the position due to greater success from other receivers the Ravens could have selected in 2019.
We’re obsessed with receiver because the Ravens have eternally needed receivers and are likely about to pay $40 million plus per season to their quarterback and we want to see him better set up for success than the last quarterback they gave a big contract to. So what should the Ravens do about receiver as the year opens up? I think they channel their inner O-Town and get it all … or nothing at all.
Like many of you, I keep thinking that Tennessee’s Corey Davis makes the most sense of the free-agent group for football and business reasons. Davis hasn’t proven to be “No. 1” productive, but he’s big and physical (6-foot-3, 209 pounds) and after a couple of tough seasons to start his career (at least perhaps in part due to quarterback issues), he really came into his own last year. He’ll get real money on the free-agent market but likely not quite as much as Kenny Golladay or Will Fuller or maybe even JuJu Smith-Schuster.
It all makes sense. I understand why Ravens fans have seemed to acquiesce around him. But other teams will be in the Davis market for sure. With limited cap space to work with, the Ravens might not be able to make it happen. Plus, we can’t dismiss the question of how free-agent receivers view the Ravens’ offense. There isn’t a definitive answer, but it’s certainly a factor in why they might not be able to get a top guy.
And that’s where the other side of my offseason take comes in. If the Ravens aren’t able to acquire Davis (or one of the other top free-agent receivers they happen to like), then they shouldn’t acquire anyone. At all. This isn’t the year to take a flier on A.J. Green or decide that signing Golden Tate would make sense because it wouldn’t impact their compensatory pick formula. This team doesn’t need quantity at receiver. They need quality.
Not only will Brown be back next year, so will former third-round pick Miles Boykin and last year’s rookies Devin Duvernay and James Proche. They have quantity, even if much of it is unproven. Should they fail to land Davis or someone of that ilk, the draft is again the place to try to find receivers. The Ravens should take whatever money they have to spend to address other needs (including a third tight end, which this silly columnist didn’t even mention in the lede).
The Ravens have a wide receiver need but it’s quite specifically a need for a special wide receiver. They’re not a Willie Snead-type away from winning a Super Bowl (with no offense to Snead). They do not need another team’s trash. They absolutely don’t need the last guy available on the market in July.
If they fail to find a special receiver in this year’s draft, then they need to keep trying next year and until they do. And what a glorious day that will be.
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