Wide receiver is undoubtedly one of the positions the Ravens will be addressing this offseason after their offense, and Joe Flacco, struggled. In a year where Joe Flacco was given a $120 million contract and was expected to take the passing attack to the next level, he posted a career high in interceptions (22) and low in touchdowns. This was at least partially due to the wide receiver play.
General Manager Ozzie Newsome has already stated his intent to add a "chain-moving" wide receiver to pair with the Ravens explosive, home run hitting playmakers like Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones.
The Ravens situation:
After Anquan Boldin was traded to San Francisco, Torrey Smith instantly assumed the number one receiving role. After a hot start, Smith cooled off with 52 yards per game during the last 11 games of the season.
Smith has progressed every year he has been in the league, going from deep ball threat to an important component of the offense to the guy in the Ravens passing attack. While he has improved his catching ability and route running (both were very raw when he came out of Maryland three seasons ago), there is still room for improvement.
The arrival of Gary Kubiak as Offensive Coordinator should pay huge dividends for Smith, as Kubiak has always had good receiver play. Smith could hit the next level if (or hopefully when) the Ravens bring in a complement receiver for him.
Jacoby Jones raises a serious dilemma for the Ravens this offseason. An impending free agent, Jones is beloved by the city of Baltimore and has become one of the faces of the Ravens. That being said, Jones is a high-end number three receiver and kick returner, and nothing more. Jones, like Smith, is a deep ball threat that can take advantage of Joe Flacco's strong arm, but he is not worth paying $4.5 million (his salary in 2013) per year for.
There is no questioning Jones' playmaking ability, as he was key in victories over the Steelers, Vikings, and Jets this year, but he disappears for long stretches of time.
One of the most exciting young Ravens, Marlon Brown came out of nowhere in 2013 to lead the Ravens and tie Torrey Smith's rookie record with 7 touchdown receptions. Brown, a 6'5" 205 lb physical receiver, came on as and undrafted rookie out of the University of Georgia.
Even more impressive, Brown played this entire season after tearing his ACL late in his senior season at UGA. Once Brown gets completely healthy and has an entire season of NFL coaching under his belt, the sky is the limit for him.
Stokley was brought on as a veteran wide receiver with precise routes and sticky hands to help ease the loss of Boldin, but struggled with concussions and retired before the end of the season.
He will always have a special place in Baltimore's heart after his role with the 2000 World Champion Ravens.
Who is Tandon Doss? The name does not sound familiar. Is he a new pitcher for the Orioles?
Jokes aside, nobody is going to be giving Doss a $50 million contract, unlike Ubaldo Jimenez.
Alright, actually being serious- Doss is a local hero for breaking up a fight at a Five Guys.
When Doss is not breaking up fights, he stars as an extremely frustrating player who was cut before the beginning of the season after underwhelming during his first two years in the league, but was then resigned at a discounted price due to injuries.
After appearing to develop chemistry with Joe Flacco and starred as a game changing punt returner, Doss regressed back to his old ways. He may be retained as an exclusive rights free agent, but is a long shot to make the roster next season.
Deonte Thompson is another undrafted wide receiver for the Ravens. Known for his game changing speed, big things were expected of Thompson this season (along with Doss... sigh), but he was injured during the preseason, lost his spot to Brown, and the rest is history.
Thompson has gotten some playing time as a special teamer, but unless he starts to show something soon, he days in Baltimore could be numbered.
Aaron Mellette, a 7th-round draft pick, initially made the roster after impressing during training camp after impressing the Ravens, particularly with his physicality. Unfortunately, Mellette suffered some knee injuries and was placed on season ending IR.
Mellette will have every chance to earn playing time for next season and could be a player to keep an eye on.
Free Agents of Interest:
*Note- If you're looking for a list of high profile free agents such as Eric Decker, stop reading. The Ravens do not target those types of free agents, so this list is comprised of mid-to-low tier players who fit the Ravens' need and price range.
Andre Roberts, Arizona Cardinals
Roberts is a fully capable receiver who has been pushed out of Arizona due to the emergence of former first round pick Michael Floyd. With good explosion and improved hands, he may not be the big bodied receiver many Ravens fans are looking for, but he could be steady contributor for Joe Flacco.
Brandon LaFell, Carolina Panthers
LaFell is another guy who has consistently improved but has never set the world on fire. Becoming one of Cam Newton's most consistent receivers, the Panthers are reportedly not going to give him the long term contract he is looking for. He is 6'2" but plays bigger than that.
Danario Alexander, San Diego Chargers
Alexander seemed to be set for a huge season with Philip Rivers as his quarterback, but tore his ACL during the preseason. He has a great frame and impressive athleticism, and will most likely not be retained by the Chargers with the emergence of Keenan Allen.
His jump ball ability would be perfect for the Ravens red zone issues. Due to his injury, he will probably sign a cheap, short-term "prove-it" deal wherever he lands.
Marc Mariani, Tennessee Titans
Not much of a wide receiver, Marc Mariani has not played since 2011 after two years on IR due to unlucky injuries. Mariani's true value lies in his talent as a kick returner, as he had 2,278 kick returning yards in the two seasons preceding his injuries, including a Pro Bowl in 2010. Mariani could be signed to replace Jacoby Jones as a kick returner if need be.