The Ravens released wide receiver Miles Boykin on April 18 in a move that will save them about $2.5 million against the cap but strikes another blow against general manager Eric DeCosta’s first draft class, which three years later has failed to produce more than one established NFL starter.
In 2019, DeCosta’s first draft after succeeding longtime general manager Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens traded up in the third round and selected Boykin with the No. 93 overall pick. (They sent their third-round pick, No. 102 overall, and a pair of sixth-rounders to Minnesota in the deal.)
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound receiver from Notre Dame was coveted for his size and physical ability, and he quickly established himself as one of the Ravens’ best downfield blockers, a critical component of their record-setting running attack. He also became one of their top special teams players.
But Boykin never established himself as a consistent pass-catching weapon, and he appeared to have communication issues with quarterback Lamar Jackson. More than once, Boykin ran one route and Jackson threw a pass intended for Boykin somewhere else.
Boykin set career highs with 19 catches for 266 yards and four touchdowns in 2020, when he started 13 games and played 53 percent of the offensive snaps. This past season, Boykin suffered a hamstring injury in training camp and missed the first eight games. He played in eight games, almost exclusively on special teams, and finished with one catch for 8 yards.
In three seasons, Boykin totaled 33 catches for 470 yards and seven touchdowns.
Still, because Boykin reached playing-time thresholds, a CBA stipulation known as the proven-performance escalator kicked in, raising his salary for 2022 to roughly $2.75 million. For a team up against the cap that is already deep at wide receiver, that contract became prohibitive. The Ravens reportedly sought to trade Boykin but found no takers.
With Boykin gone, Rashod Bateman (6-1) is the only Ravens receiver on the 53-man roster who is taller than 6 feet. The Ravens could look to add size at wide receiver in the draft, but with Bateman, Marquise Brown and Pro Bowl kick returner Devin Duvernay atop the depth chart, it is not viewed as a pressing need and it would be a surprise if the Ravens use an early draft pick at the position.
Boykin’s departure adds to the disappointing tenor of DeCosta’s 2019 draft class. Three years later, only top draft pick Brown (No. 25 overall) has established himself as an NFL starter. The Ravens didn’t have a second-round pick in 2019, having dealt it away the previous year when they jumped back into the first round to select quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The Ravens felt well positioned with five picks in the third and fourth rounds in 2019, but that strength-in-numbers approach has, to this point, failed to produce the desired results.
The Ravens’ third-round picks were outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson, taken at No. 85 overall, and Boykin, selected eight picks later. Entering the final year of his rookie deal, Ferguson has not developed into the disruptive pass rusher the Ravens envisioned. He has 4.5 sacks in 38 career games and did not have any this past season.
The Ravens had five picks later in that draft, including three fourth-rounders, and only one of them — guard Ben Powers — has started any games in the NFL. The remainder of that draft class included running back Justice Hill (fourth round), cornerback Iman Marshall (fourth round), defensive tackle Daylon Mack (fifth round) and quarterback Trace McSorley (sixth round).
Hill missed this past season with a torn Achilles and will need a strong camp to make the team this summer. Marshall has been sidelined by injuries virtually his entire career, appearing in just three games. Mack played one game for the Ravens before being released in the summer before his second season. He is playing for the Tampa Bay Bandits in the USFL. And McSorley was signed off the Ravens practice squad last season by the Arizona Cardinals after he was beaten out by Tyler Huntley for the Ravens’ No. 2 quarterback job.
The Ravens have touted their draft position this year, with nine picks in the first four rounds, including two in Round 3 and five in Round 4. They have plenty of holes coming off a season in which they finished 8-9 — just the second losing season in coach John Harbaugh’s 14-year tenure — and they’ll have to hope those mid-round picks can produce more than those 2019 picks have to this point.
Update: Boykin was claimed off waivers by the Pittsburgh Steelers, per reports.
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