Though his pass-catching opportunities dwindled as the season progressed, Ravens wide receiver John Brown called 2018 his most enjoyable year in the NFL.
Whether that means Brown returns to the Ravens remains to be seen. Few players were more impacted by the quarterback switch from Joe Flacco to Lamar Jackson, as Brown’s role as a deep ball threat virtually disappeared.
Brown caught 34 passes for 587 yards and four touchdowns over the Ravens’ first nine games with Flacco as the starter. Then the switch was made to Jackson, and Brown caught just 10 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown over the final eight games, including two catches for 14 yards during Sunday’s playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Looking at those numbers, it would be understandable if Brown thought he might fit better in a different offense. But Brown loved the Ravens’ locker room and the way Baltimore finished the regular season winning six of seven games to capture the AFC North.
That winning atmosphere makes Brown want to re-sign with the Ravens as a free agent.
“It was great,” Brown said. “This was the most fun I’ve had in my career. I just appreciate the organization [for] bringing me in and giving me a chance. Of course I would like to be back. I mean, I know how things are run around here. I [would] love to continue being a Raven.
“I was able to be myself, I was able to talk to the coaches when I wasn’t feeling right about certain things. It’s just the whole locker room, all the players, everyone, was on the same page and communicated.”
The 28-year-old Brown signed a one-year deal last offseason, after spending his first four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. He bet on himself, turning down multi-year offers elsewhere. Brown had an off year with the Cardinals in 2017, playing just 10 games and catching 21 passes, leaving questions about his production and durability.
However, Brown played all 16 games this season, and before the Ravens went to a run-first offense with Jackson, Brown was the team’s primary deep threat. Brown had 116 yards receiving Week 4 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and 134 yards receiving in Week 7 against the New Orleans Saints.
With Jackson and the running game carrying the offense in the second half of the season, all the wide receivers saw fewer targets. But instead of leaving, Brown believes he will become a bigger offensive contributor as Jackson develops as a quarterback.
“I’m sure things will change if I did come back, just find ways to get the playmakers the ball,” Brown said. “I believe if I come back, it’ll probably be 50/50 balance.”
Brown said he would not sign another one-year deal, and that money would not be the only factor in his decision. By producing big plays in September and October, Brown said he proved that he was still a capable deep threat. Playing all 16 games also answered questions about his durability.
“I just want to take care of my family,” Brown said. “It’s not all about money, but definitely if the organization wants me here, and it’s enough for me to provide for my family, I would love to be back. I’d rather be happy than to have a lot of money.
“At the end of the day, I look at it [as] film don’t lie. Something will work out, but no, I’m not taking a one-year deal after this.”