With the release of Michael Crabtree, the Ravens continue a troubling trend. For several offseasons, the wide receiver room has been painted in a new shade of patchwork free agent signings and mid-round draft picks, never truly sticking. This rotating roster was a lingering proof point in defense of Joe Flacco’s struggles and will continue to drag down productivity for Lamar Jackson if it is not properly addressed this year.
Particularly for a sophomore quarterback looking to improve his 58.2 completion percentage, another season without a reliable number one option will stall his development and halt the franchise’s progress. In his first year as GM, Eric DeCosta has already shown an eagerness to make meaningful transactions by trading Flacco, extending Tavon Young and cutting Crabtree. While his overall philosophy will continue to solidify over the next couple of months, the simple strategy should be clear: Surround Lamar Jackson with the type of security and reliability a young, unique talent requires to blossom.
While the “next man up” reality of the NFL cannot be avoided — but rather budgeted for — Baltimore must stop the constant changing of the guard on offense. Too many coordinators and play callers were installed during Flacco’s tenure, and the failure to find the right weapons at the right time plagued the franchise’s playoff hopes for years. The Ravens cannot simply invest cap space and draft picks in receivers this offseason — they have done so for the last several years. The time is now to bring in a cast of both talented veteran leadership and immediate impact rookies, rather than applying another ineffective band-aid like Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin or Crabtree.
The Ravens have not found a true go-to receiver since Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith and Steve Smith. Continuity is unavoidably lost for the 2019 season, but in the interim, Baltimore can build some consistency from their strong tight end production. The 86th overall pick in 2018, Mark Andrews averaged 16.2 yards per reception and caught 68 percent of his targets.
This offseason will set the tone for not only the upcoming schedule but years to come, as it is a chance for DeCosta to get it right and bring in personnel that can develop a rapport with Jackson and establish a cadence of success for the future.