Kamar Aiken was a good soldier for the Ravens, not a diva, in 2016.
He certainly had reason to grouse and grumble if he so chose. After leading the team with 75 catches the year before, Aiken found himself on the outer fringes of the offense, playing more on special teams than when the Ravens had the ball. He told an interviewer earlier this week that he felt like a forgotten man.
But while everyone knew he was discouraged, he didn't flap his wings or jaws and complain out loud, creating a distraction. He kept his head down and did whatever was asked of him. Only after the season, when he became a free agent, did he admit he was frustrated to see his reception total drop so precipitously, from 75 one year to 29 the next.
Aiken, 27, signed a one-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts earlier this week, ending one of the Ravens' better longshot stories in recent years. After entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2011, he endured stays on three teams' practice squads before coming to Baltimore, where he worked hard and eventually made a name for himself as a contributor.
But the Ravens made little effort to keep him when he hit the open market, and I think I know why. Though productive when given a chance, Aiken averaged just 12 yards per catch in his three years in purple. That's not a huge number. The Ravens need – and are looking for – greater explosiveness from their receivers.
They need guys who can charge up a passing game that often lacked electricity in 2016; at the risk of stereotyping, guys whose profiles skew more toward diva than good soldier.
You know the type – a high-strung, trash-talking playmaker who demands the ball, commands attention from defenses and can barely stand it when he's not deciding games.
Remember the elaborate celebrations the Giants' Odell Beckham Jr. staged after his touchdown plays that beat the Ravens last season? They went on for so long I thought he was adapting the first act of "Hamilton" right there on the field.
Of course, it's the play that matters, not the celebration that follows. But you get what I'm saying, right? The Ravens need more drama from their receivers. They need big personalities and big plays.
Steve Smith Sr. fit the mold for three years, but he retired after last season. Mike Wallace also fits the mold pretty nicely, and the Ravens are hoping for big things from him in 2017 after picking up his sizable contract option.
They're also hoping for big things from Breshad Perriman, who has the right kind of shout-out-loud skill but an understated personality. No "Hamilton" theatrics from him. (Memo to Ravens: Can you work on that? Can you take Breshad aside and tell him to, you know, maybe strut his stuff a little more?)
So far, as they rebuild their roster for 2017, the Ravens have experienced more subtractions than additions on offense. They still have so many offensive holes that fans are getting worried. It's an understatement to say the offense for 2017 hasn't come into focus after enduring an excruciating 2016.
The rebuilding job needs to include one or perhaps even two new receivers who can contribute immediately. My two cents, if they've got some diva in them, it's a good thing.
Such players aren't easily located, of course. The draft is the best way to add one, and wide receiver is one of several positions the Ravens could address with an early pick, perhaps even their first-rounder, the No. 16 overall selection.
If Clemson's Mike Williams or Western Michigan's Corey Davis are available, they could be hard to turn down.
The Ravens also could add a veteran receiver who gets cut by another team after the draft. Some relatively big names are usually available then.
One way or another, they need to give quarterback Joe Flacco some new targets, with hopes of raising the offense's playmaking quotient. It's overdue for a spike, as Ravens officials have readily admitted.
If you see "Hamilton" being reprised in the end zone one day next fall, you'll know they're on the right track.