Eisenberg: It's Becoming Clear How Ravens' New Cast of Receivers Will Look


It's pretty big news that the Ravens have made an offer to wide receiver Willie Snead, as ESPN and other outlets reported Friday.

The Ravens' No. 1 goal of this offseason is to rebuild their pass-catching corps, and if they land Snead, it's suddenly clear how that rebuilt receiving corps will look.

Michael Crabtree and John Brown will start on the wings, with Brown as the speed guy who can get deep and Crabtree as the tough veteran who can work seams. Snead will man the slot. Chris Moore and a rookie, presumably drafted in a high round next week, will provide depth and compete for snaps, as will Breshad Perriman.

That's it. Other than the identity of the rookie, there's no more guesswork about the 2018 receiving corps.

Yes, the New Orleans Saints have five days to decide if they want to match the Ravens' offer and retain Snead, a move that would cloud things up again to some degree. But the Saints don't have much salary-cap room and they're already pretty deep at receiver. I like the Ravens' chances of landing Snead.

This means, of course, that you can probably forget about Dez Bryant. I don't know if the Ravens sensed a lack of interest from the former Dallas star or doubted whether he could still perform at a high level, but regardless, they opted for a situation they could control with an offer, as opposed to a situation they *hoped *might go their way.

Their bird-in-hand thinking can be taken as a defensive or aggressive move, depending on your point of view. If Bryant stars for a new team in 2018, the Ravens will kick themselves for not staying the course and trying harder to land him. But if he disappoints and Snead shines, they'll feel good about their decision-making.

I know some fans are disappointed for the simple reason that Snead can't begin to match Bryant's track record or star power; at the very least, Dez would have livened things up around here.

But Snead's projected addition is in keeping with what has been a theme of this rebuilding project – namely, that the Ravens are going to pay for what they think players will do, as opposed to what they've already done.

That was certainly the story behind their offer to Ryan Grant, which was rescinded due to a failed physical. Listening to GM Ozzie Newsome, it's clear he felt Grant was an underrated talent ready to pop. He wanted an ascending player, not one who had plateaued.

Brown and Snead are similar cases. Both are coming off down seasons due to injuries and other factors; Brown had just 21 receptions a year ago, Snead just eight. But both were extremely productive before that and the Ravens obviously believe they also are ready to pop.

Naturally, some will take this logic as an excuse for shopping the bargain bins instead of the prime racks –it's certainly cheaper to add such players instead of, say, a Jarvis Landry, who signed a $75.5 million deal with the Cleveland Browns.

With that in mind, the Ravens hopefully understand that their reconstituted receiving corps isn't going to send fans' imaginations soaring. After enduring a season in which Baltimore ranked No. 29 in the league in passing, the public understandably wants to see improvement before it starts believing, and it certainly isn't in the mood to take leaps of faith.

But that doesn't mean the project is doomed to fail. There's plenty to like about these new guys, starting with the fact that they're young and hungry. Snead is 25. Moore is 24. Brown is 28. A high draft pick would be in his early 20s. (Yes, receiver should remain a priority in the draft. With Snead, Crabtree and Brown not on long contracts, the Ravens need a young receiver with the potential to develop into a starter, lessening the need to continually patch at the position.)

Aside from being young and hungry, the new guys are fast, blazingly so in Brown's case. At a position where the Ravens have lacked explosiveness, they're going for it with an almost entirely new cast, hoping their final words on the subject will be, "I told you so."

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