The combine is about to open for business, and free agency is just a few weeks away. That faint noise you’re hearing is the whirring engine of the NFL media offseason machine slowly kicking into gear.
Of course, nothing moves slowly when it comes to this league, least of all the 31 teams who are gunning for pole position to make up ground on the previous years’ champion. They begin their conquest towards doing so in the stage of the year we’re currently in, which is when the framework for free agency plans are usually put together.
The Ravens are obviously one of the teams chasing the ultimate goal of hoisting the Lombardi after New England (again) earned the right last season. Facing a rebuild of team identity that starts at General Manager, makes a pit stop at quarterback, and certainly doesn’t end there, they have their work cut out for them.
Thankfully, new head honcho Eric DeCosta seems to be off to a promising start, though none of his moves are entirely unexpected. One of these transactions was the release of Michael Crabtree, which begins the seemingly annual rebuild at wide receiver for Baltimore.
This was widely speculated to happen so the ending to this partnership shouldn’t come as a shock, but it again puts Baltimore in a familiar predicament. Wideout is once again one of the biggest needs for a franchise who’s had more success signing and developing almost every position in their 23 years of existence.
DeCosta has a chance to finally rewrite that narrative and this is the first move towards doing so, but either way it’s not going to be an easy fix. The pickings are relatively slim on this year’s open market, and even when that is the case, the top options are usually still overpaid.
So who could be some bargain value type players he could add to improve the receiver room at appropriate cost? Let’s take a look:
Adam Humphries, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A tough and dependable target, the versatile Humphries has been a favorite target of Jameis Winston’s for the past several seasons, even more so than the more gifted DeSean Jackson for what that’s worth. While he may lack the ideal strike zone for a streaky passer like Lamar Jackson, Humphries more than makes up for it with strong hands and creativity after the catch that would be perfect for a between the numbers, ball control type offense.
His 32nd overall receiver ranking by Pro Football Focus may seem low, yet he actually grades out at 74 which is good for the “Above Average” designation. While that may not sound especially tantalizing, the value you’ll likely be able to sign him for screams low risk/high reward type player.
NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling agree, ranking Humphries as their #52 overall free agent. Here’s what they have to say on him:
Good football player alert: Humphries is a tough slot receiver with good hands, easy separation between the numbers and a punt returner’s ability to make something out of nothing after the catch. Julian Edelman -- after taxes.
He may be a bit redundant with Willie Snead, but if a true rebuild of this room is again coming, they’ll need all the help they can get. Humphries would give it to them in many different ways.
Tyrell Williams, Los Angeles Chargers
Williams may be on the higher end of what a bargain signing may be, but the fact that he doesn’t have an established reputation and wasn’t spectacular last season works in the favor of a team trying to sign him on the relative cheap. While he isn’t considered high pedigree because he went undrafted in 2015 (same as Humphries), he has all the physical tools to be a dominant NFL receiver.
At 6’4, he ran a 4.42 at the NFL combine, and that speed has translated to consistent success as a deep threat for Phillip Rivers. Since his breakout 2016 season (1,059 yards, 7 TDS), he’s never gone below four scores, with his lowest yardage total being 653 last season.
That’s a level of consistency the Ravens would benefit from, especially if they were able to get Williams below what his market value really should be. Golden Tate is getting all the buzz as the top name available for the position, but the reality is that he and Williams’ stats the last few seasons are pretty similar, something interesting to consider heading into a period where the former is likely going to be paid a whole lot more.
Jamison Crowder, Washington Redskins
“A younger, cheaper Golden Tate? Crowder creates separation quickly near the line of scrimmage and was often Kirk Cousins’ favorite target. Just 25, he could be available at a bargain price coming off an injury-plagued season.”
The above excerpt is from the same top free agents article which was referenced earlier with Humphries, and explains why Crowder is similar to Tyrell Williams. He may not have the freakish physical traits of his fellow 2015 draft class member, but he’s also a guy who had consistent production before an injury plagued season saw his stock drop prior to hitting free agency.
He is in a more similar mold to Tate, where his willingness to go over the middle and catch a ton of balls is what really stands out. Creative route running would also help with a quarterback like Jackson who’s known for keeping the play alive, something Crowder may potentially excel at.
Devin Funchess, Carolina Panthers
Funchess comes in a similar mold to Williams, where he’s probably the more ideal type player to bring in as Jackson continues to work on accuracy improvement. At 6’4, 225 he has the right frame for a quarterback with a bit more of a scattershot arm.
This would explain why he meshed fairly well with Cam Newton, and could do the same at a good value for a player like Lamar. In his four seasons as a pro, he’s never had less than four touchdowns proving his reliability as a red zone threat, something a touchdown deprived Ravens offense could use, especially in an aerial fashion.
He’s had issues with drops in his career (he’s tallied 23 in his four years per PFF), so he may seem a lateral move as a replacement for Crabtree, though that’s only if the Ravens fail to use him correctly. Bringing in Funchess along with other more diverse options such as a Humphries or Crowder type player (and a high draft pick) would allow him to excel as a big body target in one-on-one situations.
Which of these four options would you prefer at the right price?
Which of these four would you like to see Baltimore sign?
This poll is closed
None of the above