After he was released by the Oakland Raiders last offseason, the Ravens moved quickly to sign wide receiver Michael Crabtree to a three-year, $21 million dollar contract. At the time, the acquisition was well-received by many and expected to pay dividends.
Many thought Crabtree would thrive as the number one option in Baltimore’s revamped passing attack. On the surface, it made sense; his redzone prowess and savy, veteran skills mirrored that of past Ravens receivers who had success in Baltimore, such as Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason.
However, things did not go according to plan. Crabtree’s longtime struggles with drops reared their ugly head early in the season and his production in terms of yards and touchdowns failed to compensate.
Crabtree finished the season with near career-lows across the board: 54 receptions, 607 yards and three touchdowns, which ranked 62nd, 66th, and 78th out of all wide receivers, respectively.
He saw 100 targets on the year, which led all Ravens receivers, so Crabtree’s struggles can’t be chalked up to a lack of opportunity. Despite seeing more targets than his counterparts, Crabtree was less productive than John Brown, Willie Snead IV, and even rookie tight end Mark Andrews.
Much like John Brown, however, Crabtree’s production cratered during the second half of the season following a quarterback change. When the Ravens became a run-centric offense with Lamar Jackson, essentially every receiver other than Willie Snead IV and Mark Andrews became invisible.
Here’s a breakdown of Crabtree’s regular season production in nine games with Joe Flacco starting and eight games Lamar Jackson under center:
With Flacco: 41 receptions, 472 yards, 11.5 YPC, 2 TD
With Jackson: 13 receptions, 135 yards, 10.4 YPC, 1 TD
Clearly, Crabtree was negatively affected by the switch at quarterback. Would his production have fallen off had Flacco never gotten injured? Probably not. However, Jackson is the quarterback going forward and Crabtree’s game does not mesh well with the young signal-caller.
Given his inconsistencies as a passer, the Ravens need to surround Jackson with playmakers capable of creating separation and gaining yards after the catch. Crabtree isn’t particularly good at either of these things.
Baltimore has an opportunity to get younger at the position and potentially acquire some building blocks for the future. Crabtree, who turns 31 next season, was never going to be anything more than a stopgap option.
Crabtree is at the backend of his prime and his production has tailored off over the past few seasons. After being signed to lead a new-look receiver core, Crabtree was one of the Ravens biggest disappointments this season. His performance did little to elicit confidence that he’ll improve going forward, either.
If the Ravens want to let Crabtree go, they can do so with the team-option in his contract. According to Spotrac, the Ravens can release Crabtree before June 1st, which ends Crabtree’s contract as a one-year/$8 million deal, saving Baltimore $4,666,665 in 2019.
If his short time in Baltimore has come to a close, at least he left on somewhat of a high note: catching two fourth-quarter touchdown passes in the Ravens wild card loss to the Chargers.
Here's another look at that Michael Crabtree TD. pic.twitter.com/QEPTgpCcbS— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) January 6, 2019
The 10-year veteran is one of several potential cap casualties on the Ravens roster. Cutting ties with “King Crab” would save Baltimore money and allow for a smoother investment in younger, more scheme-friendly options at wide receiver.
While retaining him going into next season would maintain consistency at the position, moving in a different direction appears to the best option for the Ravens.
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Should the Ravens move on from Michael Crabtree?
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