The Baltimore Ravens’ mission this off-season was to complete a full reconstruction at wide receiver, and they have done so before Thursdays NFL Draft in Dallas. Out are veterans Mike Wallace and Michael Campanaro, who signed 1-year deals with the Philadelphia Eagles and Tennessee Titans, respectively. Jeremy Maclin was also released and is still on the market looking for a new team. Maclin has seen little interest except a phone call from the Dallas Cowboys before they signed Allen Hurns, as reported by ESPN’s Josina Anderson.
2016 fourth-round pick Chris Moore and 2015 first-round selection Breshad Perriman remain from last year’s unit. Michael Crabtree, John Brown and reportedly Willie Snead are set to join a group that was in serious need of an overhaul. This still doesn’t necessarily take them out of the receiver market in the draft and it shouldn’t, but it does lessen the immediate need at the position.
Nevertheless, the Ravens are still looking for pass catchers at tight end. The tight end position has been a large part of the team’s success over the years with players such as Shannon Sharpe, Todd Heap, Dennis Pitta and Benjamin Watson contributing for the offense. Looking at the depth chart currently, the team essentially has Nick Boyle and a bunch of question marks. And even Boyle himself has his own concerns.
The aforementioned Watson caught 61 receptions, for 522 yards, and four touchdowns for Baltimore’s offense in 2017. This was just one year after suffering a torn Achillies tendon injury that cost him the 2016 season. Considering he will turn 38-years old in December, he was solid veteran presence to have in the locker room. However, in a way Watson was a part of the exodus of receivers the Ravens decided to move on from, as he signed a 1-year deal to return to the New Orleans Saints last month. Watson’s departure leaves only Boyle, Maxx Williams, Darren Waller, and Vince Mayle on the tight end depth chart.
Mayle is mainly a special teams player. Waller has dealt with injuries and is now coming off a year long suspension for violating the league’s policy on substance abuse. This was the second time Waller had been suspended, he was previously suspended for four games in 2016. Williams, who was the teams second-round pick in 2015, has dealt with knee and ankle injuries. He caught 32 passes for 368 yards and a touchdown during his rookie campaign, but would miss all of 2016 due to a knee injury that required a rare surgical procedure.
Williams came back in 2017, but he missed five games due to an injured ankle and only notched 15 receptions in 11 games. Maxx now enters the all important contract year looking to prove his value. Boyle was picked three rounds after Williams in 2015, yet he has contributed the most over these past three years. However, just like Waller, Boyle has been suspended twice, both suspensions were for use of performance-enhancing drugs.
After the Detroit Lions released tight end Eric Ebron last month, the Baltimore Suns Jeff Zrebiec reported the Ravens were interested in his services. Unfortunately, the Ravens never got him in the building and he signed a 2-year contract with the Indianapolis Colts. Currently, there isn’t much else available in free agency other than 38-year old Antonio Gates and the declining Julius Thomas. As for the trade market, there are rumors about Rob Gronkowski’s status with the New England Patriots, yet Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported over the weekend that New England expects Gronkowski to play for them next season.
The Ravens will most certainly have to take a tight end early in this draft to bolster their weak unit. This class of tight ends isn’t necessarily strong. South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst is considered the best option. Former Ravens scout and current NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah mocked Hurst to Baltimore with the 16th pick in his latest draft.
Some could point to inside linebacker and offensive tackle as pressing needs after wide receiver, and the team definitely should try to find help at those positions. However, tight end is currently the bigger necessity for the success of Joe Flacco and the offense as a whole. Right now, the Ravens don’t have much except Boyle. That must change soon.