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Eisenberg: Why Ravens Need to Add a Wide Receiver


When asked after the draft if he would attempt to bolster the Ravens' receiving corps before the 2017 season begins in Cincinnati on Sept. 10, GM Ozzie Newsome chose his words carefully.

"Am I going to be spending between now and up until we play Cincinnati to continue to improve the football team and try to get an additional wide receiver? Yes. We will continue to work to get that done," Newsome said.

It sounded as if there wasn't any gray area. Yes, he said, he was looking for another receiver – an idea fans would embrace since Steve Smith Sr. and Kamar Aiken are gone and the team didn't add a receiver in early free agency or the draft.

Newsome wasn't finished answering the question, though.

"But I have come to learn," he added, "because we sat here last year, and the question was asked, 'Who is going to be your inside linebacker?' We just said, 'We will work on it.' We already had him here in Zach Orr. We have got to give our own players every opportunity ... to compete and win jobs before we just start scouring the waiver wire or do things."

In summation, Newsome said the Ravens "are still out there hunting" for another receiver, but "hopefully, that guy is already here."

That sounded as if the Ravens' plans were more fluid than concrete. They want to add a receiver, but they also might not if they decide one or more of their young guys are ready to blossom.

"Hey, guys make a jump from year one to year two, so some of our skill people may be able to do that," Newsome said.

Others have also suggested Chris Moore, Michael Campanaro or another of the Ravens' young receivers might rise up in 2017, as Orr did in 2016. Joe Flacco and Mike Wallace recently said the team didn't need another receiver because there was already enough talent at the position.

With all due respect, I think that's a dangerous road to go down.

It's one thing to hope young players break out and another thing to expect them to do so and plan accordingly. You can get burned when you count on major production from players without track records.

The Ravens experienced that at receiver in 2013 when they counted on Jacoby Jones and Tandon Doss to replace the departed Anquan Boldin. Jones actually had a history as a No. 3 receiver, but he struggled, as did Doss. Marlon Brown, a rookie free agent, became the team's most productive wideout behind Torrey Smith.

The Ravens are already rolling the dice at receiver this year by penciling in Breshad Perriman as Smith's replacement. Perriman has obvious potential, but he's inexperienced and needs to develop polish and consistency. Will he do that? It's a fair question.

Counting on their young receivers to step up would constitute another gamble at a position that demands a degree of certitude.

My two cents, the Ravens definitely need to add someone.

Yes, Campanaro has consistently made plays when he's on the field, but he's been injured a lot. And yes, Moore has opened eyes with his speed and potential, but he's a fourth-round draft pick with seven career receptions.

Both might pop in 2017, but that shouldn't stop the Ravens from insuring against the possibility that things don't work out as envisioned. Adding another quality target for Flacco is never a bad idea.

The free agent pool has thinned to just a few viable options, most with age or injury issues. Boldin's return would please some fans, and he did catch 67 passes in Detroit last season, so he could contribute.

But Boldin only averaged 8.7 yards per catch last season, and the Ravens already have Dennis Pitta and Danny Woodhead as checkdown options for Flacco.

The best-case-scenario addition would be someone younger who can catch passes downfield – a caliber of player obtainable only in a trade at this point, likely in exchange for a draft pick.

It's hard to specify who might be available in a trade, but it appears the Jaguars, Eagles and Chargers have more receivers than they need. Other teams might also be in that position.

Newsome is never fond of giving up picks, but he has pulled off such deals before, and I believe the conditions are ripe for another.

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