While talk of the need to add a No. 1 wide receiver is already heating up Baltimore airwaves, General Manager Eric DeCosta threw cold water on the chatter in his first press conference of the offseason.
DeCosta reiterated what Head Coach John Harbaugh talked about last week – that the Ravens are a running football team. DeCosta also said he likes the progress of the Ravens' young wide receivers and knows that the path to improving the passing attack is multi-faceted.
"There are a lot of things we can do. It's not all about getting the 'No. 1' receiver that everybody likes to talk about," DeCosta said Monday.
"We will certainly look at that. We will try to upgrade at every single position on this football team this offseason if we can, based on the parameters of what we have to work with draft pick-wise, money-wise and all the other challenges associated with building a football team."
The Ravens are in a better salary-cap situation than many teams hunkered down waiting to hear how low this year's COVID-19 affected salary cap will drop. But that doesn't mean Baltimore has money to burn, especially with a roster full of young, talented players looking for extensions.
That means DeCosta and his deputies will be especially judicious this offseason about where their limited resources are best used, and where the best investment to help the offense take the next step is to upgrade the receiving corps.
"We throw the ball a lot less than a lot of other teams do. That's by design. We're a running football team," DeCosta said. "We want to be precise, for sure. We want be more efficient."
DeCosta was asked about whether this week's conference championship games showed that the Ravens need to improve their passing game, which ranked at the bottom of the league in yards per game and in the middle of the pack in efficiency, in order to keep up with the other challengers.
"I watched those games yesterday. I think one of the issues that one of the teams had yesterday was that they couldn't run the ball, and they didn't keep the other team off the field," DeCosta said. "Let's not forget, now, that we have a running attack that's probably the best in football, and probably the best in the history of football – that's to our credit. We want to be good at everything."
Getting a top wide receiver would take a huge investment. Instead, DeCosta pointed to improved pass protection and reducing penalties and turnovers as ways to help Baltimore's offense take the next step.
While he gave credit to Orlando Brown Jr. and the offensive line as a whole for battling through adversity this season, DeCosta said losing All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley, especially from a pass protection standpoint, was "definitely a tough deal for the offensive line to handle."
The other aspect that will help Baltimore's passing attack is the maturation of the team's young playmakers. Lamar Jackson is entering his fourth season and is clearly still growing as a passer. He's taken major steps from where he started, but there's room to improve and Jackson knows it.
DeCosta said he doesn't get involved in whether the Ravens become more of a passing offense. He leaves that up to Head Coach John Harbaugh, Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman and the players to work that out. DeCosta will meet with Roman to talk about what types of players he wants to add.
DeCosta has built a young wide receiver corps to grow with Jackson, spending four draft picks on wideouts the past two years: Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay and James Proche II.
Brown was hobbled his first season by an injured foot that eliminated his entire summer, then Duvernay and Proche couldn't get on the field until training camp because of COVID-19 restrictions. DeCosta said having Organized Team Activities and more practice time would be a big benefit to the team's passing attack, and Brown already expressed his desire to get together with teammates more this summer.
DeCosta said he thought the team's young wide receivers "emerged and played pretty well," noting that it's not a traditional offense and thus should not be graded by traditional stats.
"I was really, really encouraged by Marquise. Over the last eight games of the season, he became a legitimate playmaker for us and a clutch guy. He scored a bunch of touchdowns, made some big, big plays. In the playoff games, he was a force in both of those. He showed some great skill, ability to run after catch, he made some clutch catches," DeCosta said.
"I thought that Boykin made some plays, made some clutch plays for us. The young guys, Devin Duvernay and James Proche, showed some special teams ability, made some plays here and there. I think their best football is ahead of both of those guys; we're very happy with both of those guys. They're young receivers who came into a very difficult situation this year with no OTAs and essentially no real training camp so to speak with games. We're excited about both those guys, we really are."