Free agency is starting, and the Ravens have their work cut out for them. A Flacco restructure, decisions on free agents Kelechi Osemele, Justin Tucker, Shareece Wright, and Courtney Upshaw, not to mention the draft and free agency acquisions all are things the Ravens will have to address.
With holes at CB, OLB, and S, plus ILB pending the decision on Daryl Smith, the Ravens will likely concentrate their draft resources on the defense, typically the stronger unit in Baltimore. However, there is a large contingent of fans who hope the Ravens use one of their picks on the 1st 2 days of the draft at wide receiver, one of their 2 holes on offense (Left tackle is the other, although it will likely be Osemele or Monroe starting there in week 1).
While Laquan Treadwell is a lock to go day 1, and others such as Josh Doctson and Corey Coleman looking likely to slip in the end of the 1st round, there is depth in this draft lasting late on day 2 (and possibly day 3) with prospects like Tyler Boyd, Sterling Shepard, Michael Thomas, Pharoh Cooper, Will Fuller, Braxton Miller, and Leonte Caroo all looking like they will be good NFL players.
But there is a free agency option I think the Ravens should consider, who would fix all their woe's in the return game, clear a valuable roster spot instead of keeping a return specialist, and add another deep threat to play with Breshad Perriman (or as insurance against any future injuries): Travis Benjamin.
An electric returner, Benjamin has been a top returner for several seasons now, but only in 2015 did he really break out as a receiver, despite a rotating cast at quarterback, with Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel, and Austin Davis rotating in and out of the starting job. Just 26 years old, Benjamin posited 68 receptions for 988 yards 5 receiving touchdowns in his fourth season, catching about 55% of his targets. He also contributed an 11.6 punt return average on 28 returns, good for 3rd in the league.
Here are some highlights from his best week last season:
This target comes with a cavet: price. With the Ravens letting homegrown receiver Torrey Smith walk last offseason for $7 million AAV, they made it clear what they were willing to pay at the position. With Benjamin being a similar, yet less proven deep threat, albeit one who contributes on special teams, the price would have to be right. The value for the Ravens would have to be somewhere around the (bargain) contract that Emmanual Sanders signed with the Denver Broncos: 3 years, $15 million.
If the market shows him to be valued at more than $5 million AAV, the Ravens would do well to complement their receivers in the deep draft group. But if the price is right, a receiver and returner would be a great addition which would enable the Ravens to concentrate their top draft resources on the defensive side without neglecting their franchise quarterback. Benjamin is a player who will make Ravens fans say Jacoby who- and based on last season, has more receiving ability than Jones ever showed in any of his stops in the NFL.