The advent of NFL free agency every year usually means one thing for Baltimore Ravens fans: Frustration. In the past, that was usually because of the team’s cautious approach, but more recently, the cap bind that they’ve found themselves in have seemingly precluded them from making a big splash offensive signing that so many fans have always hoped for.
With big names such as Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins flying off of the hypothetical free agent wish list early on Tuesday, Baltimore opted to sit back and let them go to the teams who had the cap space to bring them in. Even some of the more realistic options such as Paul Richardson, Albert Wilson, and Marqise Lee came off the board, which left Ravens fans to wonder if Ozzie Newsome was asleep at the wheel.
Well it turns out that he wasn’t, but some of those fans probably wish that he was due to the fact that he opted for the cheaper (and also somewhat unproven) options John Brown and Ryan Grant. Predictably and understandably, a lot of fans expressed their anger about these moves on social media.
My take on it? You have a right to be skeptical of course, but try not to take it too far, especially in March. These signings may not look great compared to the fact that Baltimore missed out on Robinson and Watkins when the team’s owner said they were capable of making a big splash, but they’re also not as terrible as everyone is making them out to be.
This is especially true when considering the context; Watkins, who was speculated to be a target for the Ravens, signed for a $16 million a year salary. That’s a million less than Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown, a decent amount more than Grant and John Brown combined, and over $10 million more than Jeremy Maclin. I certainly won’t argue Watkins’ talent as he obviously has it in heaps. After all, he wasn’t drafted fourth overall for no reason, and he does deserve to be one of the higher paid receivers in this class.
But to those who will complain about opting for these two players instead of someone like Watkins due to production, consider this: his career best season came in 2015 with Buffalo when he had 60 catches for 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns. John Brown’s career best season? 2015, when he caught 65 balls for 1,003 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Those who are miffed at the Ravens valuing Grant at $7.25 million per year when he caught 43 passes for 573 yards and four touchdowns last season, take a look at Albert Wilson. Miami just gave him $8 million per year coming off of a 42 catch 554 yard season with three scores.
The reality is that neither of the two guys I compared to Brown and Grant aren’t worth their contracts. It’s that value isn’t always determined by the number associated by a player, and that it’s much too early to freak out about the team’s 2018 chances based on the early stages of free agency. Remember, free agency does not officially open until 4:00 pm ET on Wednesday.
As things stand right now, Baltimore is almost certainly better than they were at receiver in 2017, even if not by a ton. Regardless, that’s a month and a half before the NFL draft where they will more than likely add at least another high value upgrade to their offensive skill position stable. That’s not to mention they could still sign another free agent in between now and then, or swing a trade for someone who can help them.
While Brown and Grant each bring their own set of risks along with their skill sets, getting too caught up on the negative side of things at this point in time is foolish and premature. The Ravens defense, which was pretty good in 2017 will return at every level, and Grant and Brown are better options than what they had yesterday.
While they aren’t the final pieces of the puzzle, the buzzer hasn’t sounded on the front office’s chance to put it all together. Once they have, if you don’t like what you see, feel free to complain about the signings, numbers, and what have you. Until then? The sky remains very much in place.