Over the past couple of seasons, the Baltimore Ravens have brought in outside free agent wide receivers to help elevate their passing game. First, the Ravens signed ex-Bengals wide-out, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, for the 2010-2011 season, and then traded a 4th round pick for ex-Bills wide receiver, Lee Evans, this past off-season.
Neither Houshmandzadeh nor Evans made too great of an impact in their time with the Ravens and, ironically, both receivers dropped passes that had a hand in sealing the Ravens’ eventual fate. Although Evans is set to return next season, it’s still unclear whether or not the Ravens will retain his services with an off-season approaching in which the Ravens could dish out big contracts to the likes of: Ray Rice, Joe Flacco, Ben Grubbs, and Lardarius Webb.
With a shaky history at picking up one or two year "rent-a-receivers" and a draft that is loaded with talented wide-outs, the question becomes: Should the Ravens take another chance at a free agent wide receiver, in the hopes that he’ll be the guy to take the Ravens offense over the hump? Or should the Ravens draft a wide receiver and build from within the organization instead of looking to bring in outside help?
After the "Jump", read what Terrell Owens says about the Ravens and see a list of FA wide receivers and which ones the Ravens could be interested in.
Before moving on to the list of potential suitors for the Ravens’ wide receivers group, I thought it was worth noting what Terrell Owens said about being able to help the Ravens and what he thinks of their past FA aqusitions:
"I know I can play. That’s not even a question that I can play. You look at the NFC championship and the AFC championship. You look at those games, especially the NFC championship. (The 49ers') starting receiving corps had one catch for three yards. You look at the AFC championship. The Baltimore Ravens the past two years brought in two guys they thought could get the job done. It comes down to crucial catches and they didn’t make those catches. So I am definitely aware of my talents."
Thanks for the insight T.O.!
Here is a list of 2012 free agent receivers:
Vincent Jackson (San Diego)
Wes Welker (New England)
Reggie Wayne (Indy)
DeSean Jackson (Philadelphia)
Dwayne Bowe (Kansas City)
Marques Colston (New Orleans)
Steve Johnson (Buffalo)
Brandon Lloyd (St. Louis)
Robert Meachem (New Orleans)
Mario Manningham (New York Giants)
Laurent Robinson (Dallas)
Mike Wallace (Pittsburgh) Restricted FA
Early Doucet (Arizona)
Harry Douglas (Atlanta)
Eric Weems (Atlanta)
Ruvell Martin (Buffalo)
Roscoe Parrish (Buffalo)
Legedu Naanee (Carolina)
Roy Williams (Chicago)
Andre Caldwell (Cincinatti)
Jerome Simpson (Cincinatti)
Eddie Royal (Denver)
Rashied Davis (Detroit)
Maurice Stovall (Detroit)
Braylon Edwards (San Francisco)
Bryant Johnson (Houston)
Pierre Garcon (Indy)
Anthony Gonzalez (Indy)
Jerheme Urban (Kansas City)
Devin Aromashodu (Minnesota)
Bernard Berrian (Minnesota)
Greg Camarillo (Minnesota)
Deion Branch (New England)
Matt Slater (New England)
Courtney Roby (New Orleans)
Domenik Hixon (New York Giants)
Devin Thomas (New York Giants)
Plaxico Burress (New York Jets)
TJ Houshmandzadeh (Oakland)
Derek Hagan (Oakland)
Chaz Schilens (Oakland)
Steve Smith (Philadelphia)
Jerricho Cotchery (Pittsburgh)
Patrick Crayton (San Diego)
Ted Ginn (San Francisco)
Josh Morgan (San Francisco)
Mark Clayton (St. Louis)
Mike Sims-Walker (St. Louis)
Micheal Spurlock (Tampa Bay)
Donnie Avery (Tennessee)
Kevin Curtis (Tennessee)
Lavelle Hawkins (Tennessee)
David Anderson (Washington)
Donte' Stallworth (Washington)
Stephen Williams (Arizona) - Exclusive Rights
Jordan Norwood (Cleveland) - Exclusive Rights
Jesse Holley (Dallas) - Exclusive Rights
Kevin Ogletree (Dallas) - Restricted
Stefan Logan (Detroit) - Restricted
Matt Willis (Denver) - Restricted
Danny Amendola (St. Louis) - Restricted
Dominique Curry (St. Louis) - Exclusive Rights
Preston Parker (Tampa Bay) - Exclusive Rights
With an obviously large group of free agents this season, teams will be sorting through the piles to pick the players that will be able to help them the most. So, who could benefit the Ravens most if they were to pursue one or two of these players that are listed above?
Two names that stick out to me are: Vincent Jackson and Robert Meachem. Starting with Vincent Jackson, his current situation in San Diego in very uncertain. Due to off-field issues and some injury concerns, the Chargers have been apprehensive in extending his contract. But, after posting his third 1,000+ yard season with the team (2008, 2009, 2011) it seems as though the Chargers might be more willing to give Jackson his pay-day. While the 29 year old wide out may be a long shot to land with the Ravens, his role in the Ravens’ offense would be clear. Jackson, coming from the Chargers who run a similar ‘Air Coryell’ offensive system, would be able to come straight into Baltimore with a head start on the inner workings of the offense. Since the Ravens have become committed to downfield passing as often as possible, the 6'5" 230 lbs Jackson could provide another big, physical deep threat for quarterback, Joe Flacco.
Coming from the New Orleans Saints, Robert Meachem might find himself as the odd man out in the free-agency-shuffle with the Saints having to find the cash to pay many of their impending free agents. At just 27 years old, the 6'2" 210 lbs receiver has a lot of room and time left to grow as a football player. While Meachem has never posted gaudy stats, he is a great down-field threat with a good nose for the end-zone. Meachem has been averaging about 40 receptions over the past three seasons (2009, 2010, 2011) with about a solid 15.0 yards per catch average and a total of 20 touchdowns. Meachem is another wide receiver that could provide a good deep threat for the Ravens that has a lot of upside and time to grow.
Over the coming months the free agency picture will start to come into focus. The Ravens have several options regarding how to handle their wide receivers group. With several top-flight collegiate wide outs projected to fall into the late 1st round of the 2012 NFL draft, such as: Notre Dame’s Malcom Floyd, Rutgers’ Mohamed Sanu, and Baylor’s Kendall Wright, it’s unclear whether the Ravens will decide to draft a wide receiver, take their chances in free agency, or continue on with their current group and keep on building from within the organization.
One thing though is for sure: Ravens general manager, Ozzie Newsome, highlighted that building the wide receiver group is one of the team’s top priorities this off-season. Expect the Ravens to make a move at some point this off-season in order to continue providing as many targets for Joe Flacco as possible.
Please share who you feel from the 2012 FA WR class would be the most helpful to the Ravens in the comments section!