Sammy Watkins is a Raven. And that’s … something.
What am I supposed to say, exactly? You guys have already said it all. This is the last guy and girl at a bar pairing up at 2 a.m. It feels like so many “hey, we’ve heard of that guy!” receiver acquisitions of recent years like Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin and Michael Crabtree and Dez Bryant and you get the picture. It feels less like a Ravens signing and more like a parody of a Ravens signing.
There’s just enough here for some Ravens fans to squint and try to be optimistic. Despite it feeling like he’s been in the league for a decade, Watkins will somehow only be 28 when the season begins. And yeah, by far his best season came when he was playing in a Greg Roman-coordinated offense.
I’ve truly been struggling to come up with a perfect analogy for a wide receiver being wildly better in a Greg Roman offense than a Patrick Mahomes offense. Maybe it’s like a pitcher putting up a monster season against the AL East at Camden Yards only to get dealt to the Padres and never be the same? Or like a college basketball player ending his career with three years of a whimper after transferring to Gonzaga when he had put up a monster freshman season in a Mark Turgeon offense?
Of course, even those who try to talk themselves into being excited by Watkins can’t reconcile him missing 23 games the last five seasons and that he’s never come close to replicating the production of the 2015 season even when he’s been on the field. His 42.1 yards per game last year made him slightly more productive than Willie Snead and seriously you guys, he played in what was literally the most productive passing offensive in the NFL while Snead played in what was literally the least and literally I mean it when I say “literally” this time.
I argued before free agency that if the Ravens couldn’t get a top receiver they shouldn’t sign any because their problem was quality, not quantity. https://pressboxonline.com/2021/03/15/glenn-clark-ravens-should-sign-a-top-free-agent-wide-receiver-or-none-at-all/ This doesn’t actually help solve the latter issue. That doesn’t mean it necessarily hurts, either. A player would have to be historically bad for a one-year, $5 million pickup to prove to be a “hurtful” signing.
Alas, the “opportunity cost” thing. You’d argue that’s not as relevant this time because there was no other receiver left that was worth signing. That’s probably true. And it’s remarkably unlikely that a player will become available via a release that would A) truly be a quality receiver and/or B) be a player the Ravens might miss out on because of the $5 million they spent on Watkins. But the real question is whether it changes what they might possibly do moving forward.
Not only can the Baltimore Ravens not operate as though signing Sammy Watkins is THE answer at wide receiver, they can’t operate as though he’s even AN answer. The Ravens didn’t have nearly enough at the position last season when they had Snead. Replacing him with Watkins leaves them roughly in the same terrible position they were.
This team should still be exploring the trade market for more consequential receiving solutions. Mike Williams, DJ Chark, Michael Gallup and DeVante Parker are all names whose availability has been speculated. A trade cannot be forced, but these avenues must still be explored in hopes of providing an actual upgrade at the position.
Whether it’s a trade that involves Orlando Brown or just parting with any of what the team absolutely thinks is already not enough draft picks to begin with, the trade route HAS to be a viable avenue, particularly as we have more evidence that the Ravens might continue to struggle to lure receivers in free agency.
And yeah, the draft. Teams can’t put themselves in situations where they’re forced to draft certain positions early because that tends to lead to bad decisions being made. But despite their struggles and struggles and struggles and struggles and struggles and struggles and struggles and struggles and struggles (paused only because I have to finish the thought or PressBox probably won’t post this column) at the position throughout the years, the draft has eternally proven to be the single best route for obtaining franchise-caliber receivers and the Ravens must continue efforts to land those players.
If two players are similar on the Ravens’ board, there can be no, “Well, receiver isn’t quite as much of a need since we were able to sign Watkins.”
For what it’s worth, I’m actually a bit happier with the Ravens signing Watkins for $5 million than I would have been with them signing T.Y. Hilton for the $10 million he got from the Colts. So there, I said something nice about it.
Now go get some actual help.
… and struggles and struggles and struggles and struggles and …