We have certainly heard a wide range of negativity about our Front Office--and our receiving personell moves in particular--in recent days. It mostly goes something like this. "We lost proven, productive vets. The young guys are unproven. You can't rely on them. This won't cut it against Pittsburgh. Why isn't this team trying harder to compete for a Super Bowl this season?"
I think we are missing a few key points from this debate. Firstly, with the subtractions of Heap and Mason, Joe Flacco now becomes the senior skill position player on this offense. Mason, though a great player and a hard worker, was a strong personality and I think the Ravens' brain trust felt that he challenged Flacco's authority. Now, Flacco holds the balance of power in the locker room. He has the absolute final word in any conversation between players on how the offense should be run. The Front Office is giving him complete ownership of this offense.
Secondly, the Ravens' Front Office, like other smart front offices in New England, Philadelphia, and so on, have always practiced the philosophy that it is better to give up on a player too early than too late. Several times in recent years we have seen teams dump players and fans said, "Woah, that guy can still play!" Trevor Pryce. Randy Moss. Dhani Jones. Past their primes? Sure. But many thought at the time that losing these players would harm these teams. Instead, these players went on to have substantial drops in performance while their original teams more than adequately made up for their departures. Were they missed? Sure, the Front Offices expected as much. But it was all accounted for in their plans.
Nowhere here have you seen me guarantee you that production from our receivers won't regress. Obviously inexperienced players make mistakes and have growing pains. But as the weeks progress, players will separate themselves from the pack with improving performance. You will probably see either Smith or Doss emerge as a legitimate second WR. Can I promise you as much? No, but you also couldn't promise me an improved offense by continuing to rely on the same comeback routes to Mason. You have to take a risk in order to improve, and we are doing that.
As for Heap, we obviously cut a guy who can continue to be productive at his position. But we wouldn't have drafted tight ends in back to back rounds last year if we didn't think both of them were too good to pass up. Dickson presents a significant run-after-catch threat (as do our rookie WRs). Again, while I can't promise you a performance equal to Heap's, I can at least say that the potential is there for him to be even better than Heap.
Basically Ravens fans, the glass is half-full. Someone from this young group will emerge. Sure, you may see a false start or two in week 1. Dickson might blow a blocking assignment and have to hold Woodley to save Flacco's life. This stuff happens. But you have to break a few eggs to make an omlet. The bottom line is that we just got younger and faster on offense, and these young players are Flacco's to mold. Let the man go to work and show us what he can do.
Update: As per Aaron Wilson's twitter, the Ravens are possibly interested in making a move for Lee Evans, the short speedster from Buffalo. He's a little inconsistent but he certainly presents a big play threat and may be a safer option to start than the rookies. But failing that, I maintain that going into week 1 with a rookie as a second starter is not a crisis by any stretch.