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Should the Ravens Bring Back Lee Evans?

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The Baltimore Ravens officially released wide receiver Lee Evans this week, a move that was widely considered to be inevitable. Evans, the 30-year-old receiver who the Ravens exchanged a 4th round draft pick for last off-season, didn’t produce any where near the numbers that the team had hoped for. Evans only totaled: 4 catches/74 yards/18.5 yards-per-catch-average/0 TDs. On top of his extremely slim production, Evans also dropped a potential game-winning pass in the end zone during the AFC championship game against the New England Patriots which could have sealed a Ravens Super Bowl berth.

Once thought to be the potential answer for the Ravens’ lack of a deep-threat, Evans went down early in the season with an ankle injury and never seemed to fully recover. Coming from Buffalo, where Evans had proved himself as a reliable and dangerous deep-threat over 7 seasons, it seemed clear at the time that he could provide a much needed new dimension to the Ravens’ offense. There might be a little blessing-in-disguise here though because maybe if Evans hadn’t have gone down, the emergence of Torrey Smith might not have happened at all this year.

Evans was due $3.27 million in salary for the up-coming season as well as a $1 million roster bonus that was due to him this month. The Ravens, seemingly, didn’t feel that they could justify paying the veteran wide-out for the up-coming season based off of his underwhelming performance during his short time in Baltimore.

(After the "Jump", see a few of the Ravens’ options with Evans and their wide receivers group altogether and participate in the poll about whether or not the Ravens should re-sign Evans.)

It seems like this is commonplace in Baltimore now. Waving goodbye to one-year-lease receivers that never lived up to their expectations and eventually had a big drop that changed the outcome of a big game. Pretty soon we’ll have to list this yearly occurrence as a Baltimore staple right next to crab cakes. All kidding aside, just because the Ravens released Evans doesn’t necessarily signal the end of his time in purple and black.

Though the Ravens may have a hard time paying Evans what he was due for the 2012-2013 season, the team should at least consider re-signing Evans at a lower rate. Quarterback Joe Flacco and Evans at times seemed to sync up well, especially during the pre-season. Evans, when healthy, absolutely is a deep-threat which plays well into the Ravens’ endless propensity to go long as often as possible and could still provide that skill-set for the offense.

Furthermore, the free agent class of wide receivers this year will be extremely bloated which puts all of the leverage on the Ravens’ side. It is possible that Evans, coming off of his worst statistical year and an injury, won’t get offered much of anything this off-season on the open market. If the team wishes to re-sign Evans, they will be able to do so at a much lower and fairer price.

If the Ravens decide to let Evans walk into free agency, the Ravens will have a couple of options on how to address their #3 wide receiver spot. As previously mentioned, this year’s free agent class of wide receivers will have a lot of players to choose from. Before everyone starts frothing at the mouth though, it should be noted that the Ravens aren’t planning to make too of a big splash into the receiver’s pool of free agents. Harbaugh on signing a top-tier free agent receiver:

"We just don’t have the cap room. It wouldn’t be a smart way to distribute the money. You get the right player for the right price, and then you have to look at it."

Though the Ravens don’t plan on spending big bucks on receivers this off-season, there may still be a few bargains to be had if the Ravens find themselves with some cash to spend:

Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis), Brandon Lloyd (St. Louis), Robert Meachem (New Orleans), Mario Manningham (New York Giants), Randy Moss (Free Agent). These are just a few of the "mid-level" receivers that the Ravens could consider.

The 2012 NFL Draft is also loaded with an abundance of phenomenal talent and depth. Though the Ravens select at 29th overall, they have proven in the past to either move up if there is a player they absolutely covet, or move back to gain additional picks. Luckily for the team, there is receiving talent strewn throughout each round of this year’s draft. Players the Ravens might be in a position to draft are:

Stephen Hill (Georgia Tech), Tommy Streeter (University of Miami), Kendall Wright (Baylor), Mohamed Sanu (Rutgers), Rueben Randle (Louisiana State University), Marvin McNutt (Iowa), Joe Adams (Arkansas). This short list certainly doesn’t cover each receiver the Ravens could draft, but many of these players posses some combination of size, speed, and versatility that the Ravens desperately need.

Though the Ravens have several options on how to build their receivers group, including Tandon Doss and LaQuan Williams, Evans has a couple of things working in his favor that may lead to him being re-signed: he is a proven deep threat in the NFL and is a match for the Ravens’ offense which favors down-field vertical passing. The Ravens will surely at least consider re-signing Evans at a far reduced price but it may come down to whether or not the veteran wide-out is completely healthy heading into this off-season. One thing is for sure: if Evans is re-signed, he will get a second chance to prove to Baltimore that he was worth a 4th round pick and will also get a chance to redeem himself after perhaps the biggest dropped-pass of his career.