When Head Coach John Harbaugh and his assistants sit down to figure out who will make the Ravens' 53-man roster, the longest discussion may be about wide receiver.
The Ravens had a logjam heading into Thursday night's final preseason game in New Orleans. It's a good problem to have, but they still have the same deadlock afterwards.
With presumably two spots to fill, the Ravens have four more-than-qualified wide receivers.
"Deonte [Thompson] played really well, [Michael] Campanaro played really well, Kamar Aiken played really well and Jeremy Butler played really well," Harbaugh said.
"So they were 4-for-4. Nobody's making it easy for us are they?"
Aiken led the receivers with four receptions for 57 yards, although he was targeted by a team-high eight passes. He started opposite Thompson.
Aiken had a touchdown called back after he barely stepped out of bounds, and was given a chance for another touchdown earlier on a bomb from Tyrod Taylor. Aiken slowed up on the play, however, and it was intercepted.
"I lost it in the light, so I never saw it. I would have probably gotten to it had I seen it earlier," he said. "Our job was to make it tough on [the coaches]. Hopefully it's in my favor. That's all I can do."
Thompson caught the only touchdown among the wide receivers when he snagged an 8-yard pass from Taylor. Thompson has the edge over the other wideouts in preseason performances. He scored three touchdowns in four games, including one on a kickoff return.
"Deonte has just played so well," Harbaugh said. "To stack it week after week – he's done the same thing in practice – it just says so much for where he's at as a football player. He's a heck of a football player."
Campanaro is the seventh-round pick that the Ravens traded back into the draft to snag. The local River Hill High School product got his first extensive offensive playing time on Thursday and made the most of it, catching three passes for 55 yards, including a team-long 39-yarder.
Campanaro looped back underneath on a long pass from third-string quarterback Keith Wenning to haul it in. He later made a heads-up play to catch a pass that was deflected and could have been intercepted. Campanaro finished with 153 total yards, as he also handled kickoff and punt return duties.
"It was fun to go out there and play a ton of snaps, go out there and get tired," Campanaro said.
"I feel like I had a strong training camp. I had some good games in the preseason with the opportunities I had. It's up to the coaches and general manager and guys like that. You hope for the best, and I hope I'm here playing for the Ravens."
Butler is an undrafted rookie from Tennessee-Martin who early on in camp was tabbed as a potential undrafted gem similar to Marlon Brown a year ago. On Thursday, he hauled in three passes for 24 yards and had the most spectacular catch of the night with a diving effort. It was called back, however, as he was flagged for offensive pass interference.
The Ravens could opt to keep seven receivers, but that's higher than usual. Butler and Campanaro could go on the practice squad, but Thompson and Aiken cannot. And sending anybody to the practice squad would mean they would have to pass through waivers without another team picking them up.
"The group that we have is a good group," Aiken said. "I feel like every last one of us should make someone's 53, if it's here or somewhere else."
With an abundance of talent at the position, the Ravens could make a trade before they have to cut their roster down to 53 by Saturday at 4 p.m.
General Manager Ozzie Newsome dealt wide receiver David Reed to the Indianapolis Colts late last preseason in exchange for a running back. There has been speculation this week that Newsome is looking to trade for a cornerback, and he cleared salary cap space by reportedly restructuring cornerback Lardarius Webb's contract.
"All the wide receivers are playing so well since the start of training camp to all the preseason games," Campanaro said. "I think teams around the league see that."
Harbaugh also feels the wide receivers who don't make the 53-man roster will land elsewhere.
"These are a bunch of guys that are going to play in the NFL for a long time," he said. "You get a chance to see those guys play in games and chase their dream. To see them chase it the way they did tonight, as a coach, that's so fulfilling."