Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said shortly after the season he was looking for opportunities to “change the wide receiver room,” meaning a complete overhaul of that position.
Newsome followed through by releasing the underperforming Jeremy Maclin and signing a couple of playmaking receivers, Michael Crabtree and John Brown. The Ravens had the 29th-ranked passing attack in the NFL last year so the upgrade was needed.
Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh are both confident the team has helped remedy some of those shortcomings with the signings of Crabtree and Brown.
“A healthy Joe Flacco plus the weapons, I’m sure there’s a math term for that,” Harbaugh said at the recent NFL league meetings. “Exponential. It’s exponential. That’s what I’m counting on.”
In addition to releasing Maclin, Newsome was able to create further cap room by parting ways with running back Danny Woodhead, cornerback Lardarius Webb and tackle Austin Howard.
With the additional cap space, the Ravens were also able to re-sign defensive end Brent Urban and offensive lineman James Hurst. Both players will push for a starting job in 2018.
Baltimore still needs to add a tight end, backup quarterback and another receiver. Newsome is confident the team has the resources to address all of those needs.
“We have created the ability to potentially get two to three more – which we feel like would be quality players – to come to this football team,” Newsome said. “The thing that you have to also realize is that as teams are signing players now, other players are getting pushed out into the market. We’ve made a living on what we would consider ‘cap casualties.’ We’ve made a living on that – on guys getting pushed out. So we will also be working that market. But yes, we’ve created enough room to be able to acquire more players to come here to Baltimore.”
Here is a closer look at where the Ravens are, how they got here and a shot at what they should do with their first pick in the draft.
2017 finish: 2nd AFC North (9-7)
TOTAL OFFENSE: 305.4 (27th)
RUSHING: 116.0 (11th)
PASSING: 189.4 (29th)
TOTAL DEFENSE: 325.1 (12th)
RUSHING: 111.3 (15th)
PASSING: 213.8 (10th)
- Tight end: The Ravens do not have a pass-catching tight end that can stretch the field, so signing that caliber of player is the biggest priority. The team is still looking to add a free agent and will likely select a tight end in this year’s draft, which is deep at that position.
- Offensive line: The Ravens lost center Ryan Jensen to free agency and released tackle Austin Howard, which has left a hole on the offensive line. As a result, Baltimore needs to add another center and right tackle for depth because the line has been hampered with injuries over the past two seasons.
- Wide receiver: The Ravens signed free agents John Brown and Michael Crabtree, but they still need to add another playmaker for quarterback Joe Flacco. The Ravens could look to the draft to fill this void because most of the top free-agent receivers are off the market.
KEY PERSONNEL TRACKER (As of April 6)
–T James Hurst: Potential UFA; $17.5M/4 yrs, $8M guaranteed ($2M injury only at signing, $5M SB).
–DE Brent Urban: Potential UFA; $1.1M/1 yr, $100K SB.
–WR John Brown: UFA Cardinals; $5M/1 yr, $4M SB.
–WR Michael Crabtree: FA Raiders; $21M/3 yrs, $11M guaranteed ($3M injury only at signing, $7M SB). Up to $2.5M incentives each year for receptions/TDs.
–QB Robert Griffin III: FA; $1M/1 yr.
–C Luke Bowanko: UFA Patriots; terms unknown.
–C Ryan Jensen: UFA Buccaneers; $42M/4 yrs, $22M guaranteed/$10M RB.
–WR Jeremy Maclin (released).
–WR Mike Wallace: UFA Eagles; $1.915M/1 yr, $1M SB.
–TE Benjamin Watson: UFA Saints; $2M/1 yr, $645K SB.
–DB Lardarius Webb (released).
–RB Danny Woodhead (released; subsequently retired).
*NFLDraftScout.com analysts suggest (No. 16 overall)
Rob Rang (April 5 mock draft):
–Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. Despite using multiple draft picks and investing in free agents, the Ravens’ receiving corps essentially remains a black hole for production with Baltimore ranking last (and by a significant margin) with just 5.7 yards per passing attempt in 2017. Filling a position of need with one last pick from his alma mater might be the perfect send-off for retiring general manager Ozzie Newsome.
Dane Brugler (April 6 mock draft):
–Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. Even after the Michael Crabtree signing, the Ravens need help downfield and Ridley is ready to contribute from day one. And we all know how Ozzie Newsome loves the Crimson Tide.
Agree? Disagree? Still shopping?
Based on the team’s current status, those are our suggestions for that first pick. To double check or find another candidate see full mocks and ratings at NFLDraftScout.com.