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Offseason positional preview: Wide receiver

Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens are in an interesting spot with their wide receiving corps, a reality most fans are pretty much used to at this point. They brought in several free agents and young draft picks to supplement an overhaul at the position, all with varying degrees of success.

Headlining the group would be Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and Willie Snead, who all had some nice moments this moments this season. After them, basically every receiver outside Chris Moore had a quiet 2018 season.

That’s largely a function of these players being young projections who may see some opportunities heading into 2019. Let’s take a look at the aforementioned headliners and promising youngsters, and their offseason outlook moving forward:

Current depth chart

  • Willie Snead IV: 2019 cap hit = $5,000,000
  • Michael Crabtree: 2019 cap hit = $9,333,333
  • John Brown: UFA
  • Chris Moore: 2019 cap hit = $869,090
  • Jordan Lasley: 2019 cap hit = $637,169
  • Jaleel Scott: Placed on injured reserve, 2019 cap hit = $640,095

Offseason outlook:

Once again, Baltimore faces some questions at this position. Crabtree was signed to be the unquestioned number one guy, and he largely disappointed in this role even when Joe Flacco was starting and giving him consistent targets.

Brown and Snead were brought in without nearly as much hype, and both produced at solid levels on balance. Snead had the most consistent output from start to finish this season and his cap hit for next year is manageable relative to his production.

Brown and Crabtree are more interesting cases. Brown had a great start to the year with Flacco behind center, but was significantly slowed down thanks to the offenses’ different approach under Jackson, as well as teams bracketing him with coverage. Crabtree is a different story, as he was arguably a free agent bust, and can’t reasonably be brought back on the above 2019 cap hit.

There’s a route for both of them to be brought back for the sake of continuity, which involves cashing in on their relatively low stock at this point. It would involve bringing back the unrestricted Brown on another low cost short term contract that’ll allow him to again attempt to re-establish his value, and asking Crabtree to take a pay cut if he’d like to stick around. If Crabtree is up for that it may be worth it, but he’s certainly not worth keeping for the final two years of his contract with a cap hit that never gets below eight million.

Beyond those top three guys, it’s tough to get a read on this receiver room. Moore actually had a nice season for a rotational player, seemingly catching everything thrown his way and possibly making a case for more 2019 snaps in what will be a contract year.

Below him are Scott and Lasley, neither of whom suited up for the squad in 2018 after both had rough preseason showings. They’ll certainly be given the opportunity to continue to develop, but Baltimore will need to begin investing higher draft capital in the receiver position if these two don’t pan out.

Looking ahead to the free agent market, if the Ravens choose to go in a different direction than players such as Brown and Crabtree, the pickings currently look to be slim. The only plausible options at the top of the heap would be Randall Cobb or Golden Tate, which potentially could happen if the team is looking for an upgrade, though it’s fair to question just how much of an upgrade either would be.

If Eric DeCosta does look to revamp the room yet again, he’s probably better off looking to trade for a more proven commodity if possible, though this could be tough without a 2019 second round pick to deal. The upcoming draft isn’t exactly chock full of top prospects at the position, so we may not be looking at a major overhaul around Lamar Jackson, at least in the immediate future.

Let us know your thoughts about the current receiver room, and the prospects of possibly re-making it yet again.