The Baltimore Ravens will have to overhaul “the wide receivers room” once again.
This time, the pressure will be even higher to find suitable playmakers for quarterback Lamar Jackson, who will need a strong supporting cast for his second season.
New general manager Eric DeCosta has not wasted any time putting his stamp on the roster. Since taking over the full-time role, he has already created $15.5 million in salary cap space by agreeing to trade quarterback Joe Flacco to Denver and releasing Michael Crabtree.
The Ravens could free up some money by negotiating or releasing a couple of other high-priced veterans, most notably safety Eric Weddle and cornerback Jimmy Smith, who are due a combined $17 million in salary in 2019.
DeCosta will have to use some of that money to sign a couple of receivers. With John Brown expected to test the free-agent market, the Ravens are left with Willie Snead, Chris Moore, Jordan Lasley, Jaleel Scott and Quincy Adeboyejo on the depth chart.
The team will need to upgrade that unit, and new offensive coordinator Greg Roman already has a specific type of player in mind.
“As far as the receivers position, guys that can get open, catch the ball, but I think one thing that’s unique, we need that tough guy, too, here that can go out and block a nickel, block a safety and win that matchup,” he said. “I think that’s very important here as we move forward.
“And then, it’s our job to put them in the best places, the best spots. But, we love the core of what we have here, and we’re always looking to expand on it. It will be exciting to see how it unfolds.”
Those comments indicate the Ravens plan to keep running at teams, which plays to the strengths of Jackson. However, they will need to find better balance on offense to attack opponents, most of whom will be able to adjust to a one-dimensional offense.
The Los Angeles Chargers provided an effective template. After being run over by the Ravens in Week 16, the Chargers successfully shut down them down two weeks later in the first-round of the AFC playoffs.
Roman anticipates that Jackson will make tremendous strides with throwing the ball this offseason. He expects the Ravens will be able to attack teams multiple ways once the regular season kicks off in September.
“I definitely think the more we move into this offense with Lamar, we’ll be able to do a little bit more and present more problems for people to have to worry about,” he said. “But I think it comes down to our plan and how that plan was executed.”
Expectations were high when the Ravens signed Crabtree in March 2018. However, he was mostly inconsistent and led the league with eight dropped passes. DeCosta decided to bypass Crabtree’s $2.5 million roster bonus that was due in the coming weeks.
Crabtree finished last season with with 54 catches for 607 yards and three touchdowns. His production dropped off when Jackson took over for Flacco and he caught just 13 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown from the rookie quarterback.
Now, the challenge is finding a player Jackson can routinely find downfield.
DeCosta will look carefully at the NFL Draft and the free-agent market to add that type of player. One veteran already linked to the Ravens is Golden Tate, but there could be competition for his services, mainly from the Patriots and Titans.