One team’s trash is another team’s treasure.
That’s been the offseason mantra for the Baltimore Ravens in recent years, as general manager Ozzie Newsome has favored free agents who were cut by their previous teams.
While the talent pool is lacking in this category this season, the benefits are not.
By signing a released player, it saves the Ravens an opportunity to receive compensatory picks for lost free agents each year.
Last season the team employed this tactic, signing Elvis Dumervil, Michael Huff and Marcus Spears, among others, allowing the chance to receive an expected four compensatory picks this year.
Had the Ravens gone out and signed free agents whose contracts expired, they may have ended up receiving no compensatory picks this year, and would have been left with only the four picks they currently possess.
So far this offseason, the pool of released players is underwhelming, and there has yet to be a big-name player to hit the market in this category. However, history shows that the Ravens will delve into this group of players in an effort to find cheap veteran options.
Who could interest the team this year?
Current free agents who have already been released such as Sidney Rice and D’Qwell Jackson may be of interest, but one veteran who is expected to be cut and would benefit what the Ravens desperately need is Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jason Avant.
According to Pro Football Talk, the Eagles are expected to release the 30-year old Avant as a result of the plethora of new deals they handed out to incumbents over the recent days.
If set free by Philadelphia, Avant should attract the bargain hunting prowess of Ozzie Newsome.
The Ravens have plenty of uncertainty at wide receiver. The only player to rely on heading into 2014 is Torrey Smith, with Marlon Brown a close second.
After that, there’s plenty of work to do, and it won’t stop until the Ravens add one, two or even three new wide receivers to the roster.
Two of the most glaring absences on Baltimore’s offense in 2013 were the lack of a consistent slot receiver and the lack of a pass catcher who can consistently haul in contested catches, the role Anquan Boldin had through 2012 in Baltimore.
Unrestricted free agent Jacoby Jones flashed improved receiving ability, especially in traffic, as the season progressed, but even if he is brought back, he can’t be relied on as the go-to receiver in short yardage situations.
No receiver currently on the Ravens roster has proven he can take on such a role.
Whether it’s the draft or free agency, one of the easiest fixes to Baltimore’s offense is to find someone who can take over the role Boldin had.
On the free agent market, no receiver would handle the slot, go-to-guy role quite like Avant, if he indeed becomes available.
Avant may not be of use to the Eagles anymore, however in 2013 he continued to display his ability to be called on as the receiver to pick up first downs in crucial situations.
As a soon-to-be 31-year old, it’s hard to gauge how many more years Avant can excel in the role he took on in Philadelphia, but if last season showed anything, it’s that he still has a few respectable years still left in him.
The value Avant would bring to the team is similar to that of Boldin, albeit with less consistency: win contested catches.
If a team has a receiver who can consistently play 50/50 balls and adjust to poorly thrown balls, the offense works much more effortlessly.
With a quarterback like Joe Flacco, someone who has proven to play much more comfortably when throwing to someone he can rely on to come down with 50/50 balls, having a player like Avant would help him return to 2012 form.
Here’s just one of many examples of Avant adjusting to and successfully coming down with an underthrown ball.
There are a select few wide receivers in this year’s draft class who can consistently win contested catches in this fashion, and even adding a player such as Avant shouldn’t prevent the Ravens from finding a player with those traits in the draft.
As of now, with no receivers or tight ends on the roster who win in this fashion, adding multiple Avant-like players to the offense would be one of the simplest fixes the Ravens can make in the offseason.
With his expected release, the Ravens should pounce on the opportunity to sign Avant assuming the price is right.
It’s unlikely he’d cost anything out of Baltimore’s tight budget once the Eugene Monroe situation is settled, and he could be just what Baltimore needs.
Avant wouldn’t singlehandedly fix the Baltimore pass attack, but he would fill a void that has been a gaping hole since Boldin’s departure.
Plus, he supplies more than the usual in-traffic catch.