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Focused on Quieting Critics

Ravens receivers James Proche and Rashod Bateman
Photo Credit: Shawn Hubbard, Baltimore Ravens
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Ravens Receivers Carrying a Chip

Over the years the Baltimore Ravens have developed a reputation as a place where wide receivers’ careers go to die. There are many factors that contribute to that reputation. Some, the Ravens have earned. Others, a result of circumstance that lie beyond their control. Be that as it may, that’s their rep, and given the fact that the team has never had a Pro Bowl wide receiver, even as an alternate (Jermaine Lewis went twice as a RS) it’s a label that the Ravens won’t shake anytime soon.

To borrow from Bill Parcells, you are what your record says you are. And the track record of Ravens receivers screams mediocrity. They need to own it. They need to fix it.

The current collection of Ravens receivers own promising skill sets yet they are extremely unproven. Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay, James Proche and Tylan Wallace have a combined 15 starts, 98 receptions and 3 touchdowns in their careers. Comparatively speaking, covering his rookie regular season only, AFC North rival WR Ja’Marr Chase has 17 starts, 81 receptions and 13 touchdowns. Chase was also a 2021 Pro Bowler and a second-team All Pro.

Beyond those four receivers, the Ravens have a collection of even less experienced pass catchers, not one of which was drafted. Any injury to any one of the relatively inexperienced top four receivers would reveal an embarrassing dearth of productivity. And that’s why analysts and fans alike believe that the Ravens almost have to make a move for another receiver whose resume includes something better than a few touchdowns in 7-on-7 drills during training camp.

But to make such a move represents a conundrum of sorts for the Ravens. The list of available free agent wide receivers with their respective age includes:

Julio Jones (33)
Will Fuller (28)
• Desean Jackson (35)
T.Y. Hilton (32)
Emmanuel Sanders (35)
Odell Beckham, Jr. (29)
Cole Beasley (33)

Not one of these receivers is an ideal fit.

Jones has started in just 19 games over the past 2 seasons and isn’t exactly known to be a committed practice player at this point in his career. It gets even worse with Fuller who has played in just 29 games during his most recent four campaigns; Jackson and Hilton offer skills that would be deemed complementary to the Ravens current WR corps but age and game day availability make them unappealing; Beckham isn’t expected to be available until mid-season and as for Beasley, don’t the Ravens already have what he brings in the form of Proche?

And then there’s Sanders. But is a 35-year-old receiver seeking employment as third, fourth or fifth option on the depth chart of a run-first offense whose coordinator has been oft-criticized throughout league circles for his rudimentary route concepts, an ideal option?

The reputation of the Ravens passing offense is a severe obstacle for GM Eric DeCosta. For players looking to have productive “prove it” years in order to land a bigger payday down the road, the Ravens aren’t exactly a good landing spot. To get such players to come on board the Ravens have to sell the possibility of a ring but with a quarterback who is coming off an inconsistent season and has only 1 playoff win on his resume, that’s a tough sell. That then forces DeCosta to overpay with checks that his salary cap bank account can’t clear. And even if he massages the numbers with some restructuring or voidable options, why kick the can down the road to bring on receiving talent in an offense that is run-driven anyway?

Do you see the conundrum?

Last season the Ravens brought in Sammy Watkins who did little other than take snaps away from young receivers who could have matched Sammy’s limited productivity while gaining valuable regular season experience. Why repeat that with players like Fuller or Hilton or Sanders – assuming of course any would agree to come to Baltimore?


“Obviously, there is a lot of noise – a lot bad, some good – around our receiver room,” Proche said. “We just want to quiet the noise with our play, with how we carry ourselves every day. You most definitely pay attention to it whether you want to or not. As a competitor, it does put a chip on your shoulder because you want to prove those doubters wrong.” ~ James Proche


Many fans don’t want to hear it but the best thing that DeCosta can do is wait. Sure, it has its risks, particularly in the event of an injury. When desperation creeps in, leverage is lost. Nevertheless, patience is key. Maybe the Ravens can deal from a position of strength and make a trade for a receiver. Maybe a receiver shakes free from another team’s roster who ends up being a better fit both schematically and financially than the question marks currently available.

You might think such an approach is doomed for failure – perhaps even insane.

But as we all are aware, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. The Ravens did that last year with Watkins. It’s time to change the approach at wide receiver. It’s time to let the draft capital invested in the position play out.

Let’s see these young receivers show us what they say they are made of.

[Related Article: Proche’s Time to Shine]

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