On Sunday night, the Baltimore Ravens agreed to a one-year deal with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., marking their biggest splash of free agency at their perceived biggest position of weakness.
Prior to this move, the Ravens had made only one external acquisition this offseason when they signed veteran wideout Nelson Agholor, also to a one-year contract. All of their other moves were re-signing incumbent free agents.
Earlier this offseason, Ravens’ general manager Eric DeCosta and Head Coach John Harbaugh claimed the team’s wide receiver room would be “revamped” come next season. Having now signed two free agents at the position, we’re beginning to see that take occur. The question begs, however, how will — or should — this impact their approach in the upcoming draft?
Even after signing Agholor, many pundits and fans continued to link the Ravens to wide receiver prospects in the first round. Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay, James Proche, and Tylan Wallace were the remaining four wideouts under contract prior to the Beckham Jr., signing. Bateman and Duvernay both suffered season-ending injuries in 2022, while Proche and Wallace have just over 300 combined receiving yards for their careers.
The acquisition of Beckham Jr. presents the Ravens with an interesting set of options, all of which will ultimately be subject to how the draft board plays out — of course.
They could select a wide receiver in the first round, where they hold the No. 22 overall pick, and double-down with another offensive playmaker. The Ravens have thus far been heavily mocked to prospects like Boston College WR Zay Flowers, TCU WR Quentin Johnston, and Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
This scenario would give the Ravens another high-level pass-catching talent to supplement their new-look receiving core, as well the returning Duvernay and tight ends Mark Andrews, Isaiah Likely, and Charlie Kolar. With Beckham Jr. carrying some injury concerns and both Bateman and Duvernay coming off injuries as well, it’d also be an insurance strategy.
However, on the flip side, one might say that cornerback is now the Ravens’ biggest position of need. That’s been an equally popular projection for the Ravens to use with their first-round selection. Prospects like Penn State CB Joey Porter Jr., Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon, and Maryland CB Deonte Banks have been recurring names in mock draft predictions.
Currently, the Ravens cornerback room is Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Stephens, Damarion ‘Pepe’ Williams, Jalyn Armour-Davis and Daryl Worley. With Marcus Peters still a free agent, the Ravens have a hole at the No. 2 spot opposite Humphrey. The in-house candidates needing to step up are young and relatively unproven.
The Ravens weren’t rich on cap space in free agency and now just gave Beckham Jr. $15 million guaranteed, on top of signing Agholor as well. They have not added any free agents at the cornerback spot and now have even less cap space to do so. That could be a signal they’re targeting a cornerback highly in the draft.
DeCosta currently only has five draft picks at his disposal and no selections in the second round. So, whatever direction the team goes at No. 22 will be pivotal, as there will be a drop-off in talent between that pick and their next one in the third round. It’s very possible, if not probable, the Ravens maneuver to acquire additional picks as well, which could include trading back from the No. 22 spot.
The Ravens stand to benefit from adding talent at other positions in the draft also, including edge rusher, defensive lineman, and offensive guard. However, in today’s NFL, having pass-catching playmakers and subsequently cornerbacks to defend them is paramount. The Ravens were thin in both areas heading into the offseason and have thus far only addressed one.
If the Ravens draft a wide receiver in the first round, they risk missing out on high-end cornerback talent, and they need another starter-caliber player at the position. They likely won’t find one in the third round or later. There probably isn’t a starting wide receiver waiting in the middle of the draft either, but they don’t need a starter as bad at wideout as they do at corner now.
This isn’t to look past Beckham Jr.’s injury history, nor the fact that neither him nor Agholor were signed beyond one year. The Ravens still need long-term investment at wide receiver but with how both position groups currently stand, using their first-round pick on a cornerback makes more sense.
Then, they can supplement their pass-catching core by drafting another receiver or two in the middle rounds. Alternatively, they could use remaining cap space to sign another veteran as well, such as retaining Demarcus Robinson.
The Ravens have used a first-round pick on a wide receiver in two of the past four draft cycles. Meanwhile, they haven’t drafted a cornerback higher than the third round since 2016, when they picked Humphrey in Round 1. This projects as a good year for them to restock their deck, especially seeing how injuries at the position have strained their depth for the past fe s
However, Baltimore’s brain trust constantly preaches “best player available” as their draft strategy, so how the board falls may ultimately determine which direction they go. We’ll soon find out in a few weeks.