Death, taxes, and the Ravens needing to upgrade at wide receiver in the offseason. With John Brown hitting free agency and Michael Crabtree a potential cap casualty, Willie Snead IV could be the only key contributor at receiver returning next season.
Even so, Baltimore will need to surround Lamar Jackson with weapons in order to improve the passing attack. New general manager Eric DeCosta could look to invest a first-round pick on a receiver in the draft this year, but the Ravens struggles in selecting and developing players at the position has been well-documented.
In each of the past three seasons, the Ravens have signed a 30-year old veteran receiver in free agency: Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin, and most recently, Crabtree. Will this trend continue come July and August?
If tradition holds true, Golden Tate would be a prime target for Baltimore. At 30 years old, Tate is an established veteran who was traded from the Detroit Lions to Philadelphia Eagles midseason. However, according to Bleeding Green Nation, the Eagles aren’t expected to resign him.
With the Lions and Eagles combined last season, Tate caught 74 passes for 795 yards and four touchdowns. His yardage and reception totals were his lowest since 2012, but Tate has long been one of the better slot receivers in the league for several years now.
Between 2014-2017, Tate caught 90+ receptions in four straight seasons and broke 1,000 receiving yards in all but one season. With a career average of 11.8 yards per catch and 38 touchdowns in nine seasons, Tate isn't much of a vertical or red zone threat.
However, what he lacks in big-play ability, he makes up for with sure hands, savvy route running, and a knack for creating in space after the catch. These are attributes that the Ravens have long lacked within their receiver core and would make Tate a natural security blanket for Lamar Jackson.
Golden Tate is a tackle-breaking machine pic.twitter.com/y2cBTAreNf— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 3, 2019
With Willie Snead IV returning for another season, there are some potential questions as to how Tate would hypothetically fit in the offense given both him and Snead primarily play in the slot. However, considering Jackson’s inconsistencies when throwing outside the numbers, it may make sense to load up on weapons who can make plays between the hashes, which is where Tate thrives.
A passing attack of Tate, Snead, and Mark Andrews, along with the expected growth of Hayden Hurst, could wreak havoc over the middle of the field and pose some mismatches for opposing defenses. Adding a potential playmaker early in the draft, ideally more of an “X” receiver, would create more balance, as well.
Of course, whether or not Tate could end up in Baltimore will ultimately come down to the numbers. Spotrac currently projects Tate’s value as somewhere around $10 million dollars annually over three years, which lines up with similar deals given to veteran receivers in recent years like Emmanuel Sanders, Desean Jackson, and Pierre Garcon.
Baltimore will have some cap space to play with this offseason, especially if they choose to cut ties with the likes of Eric Weddle, Michael Crabtree, and Jimmy Smith. Getting out of Joe Flacco’s contract will create even more relief, as well.
Eric DeCosta will likely prioritize retaining the Ravens own free agents before scouring the market for potential newcomers. However, if he does desire to add a wide receiver in free agency, Tate is arguably the most talented and established guy on the market.
Tate’s skill set appears to mesh well with what the Ravens want to do on offense and he could immediately step into a size-able role as Jackson’s go-to receiver. His veteran leadership and experience would be a welcome addition, as well.
After several years of failed experiments, the Ravens need to get the wide receiver position right this year. Finding a way to sign Golden Tate would be a significant step in the right direction.