It’s been a busy March for the Ravens.
In the last few weeks, the Ravens have added wide receivers Michael Crabtree and John “Smokey” Brown, and re-signed offensive lineman James Hurst and defensive end Brent Urban. They’ve parted ways with veterans such as wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, running back Danny Woodhead and defensive back Lardarius Webb, and seen free-agent receiver Mike Wallace and center Ryan Jensen depart for other teams.
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh met with reporters Tuesday morning for the first time since the flurry of moves.
“I’m really excited about free agency and what we’ve done to improve our team,” Harbaugh said during the coaches’ breakfast at the annual NFL League Meetings. “I’m disappointed about the guys we lost, of course, but most of that was predictable.”
Adding Crabtree and Brown to the roster are big moves during an offseason where the Ravens are remaking their receiver group. General Manager Ozzie Newsome made it clear at the outset of the offseason that the Ravens wanted to change the personnel of the receiving corps, and they’ve made a big step in that direction.
“I’m excited about both receivers,” Harbaugh said. “John Brown is a really exciting player that our fans are really going to be thrilled to watch play. He was hurt last year, had some hamstring issues, and I think that took his production down a little bit, and that probably opened the door for us a little bit to get him. Sometimes that’s a positive deal. This guy is an explosive receiver. He’s a really good route runner. He’s really fast. He has good hands.”
Brown, 27, is coming off a season where he caught 21 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns. He’s not far removed from topping 1,000 receiving yards and scoring seven touchdowns during the 2015 season, which included a game against the Ravens where he caught four passes for 65 yards and a score.
“If you look back at the Monday Night Football game we played against them out in Arizona, he had a big game against us,” Harbaugh said. “I really like his attitude. He’s really competitive.”
Crabtree, 30, arrives in Baltimore expected to be the team’s top receiver. The 10-year veteran has topped 1,000 receiving yards twice in his career, and he’s scored 25 touchdowns over the last three seasons.
“Michael Crabtree, it almost speaks for itself,” Harbaugh said. “I know our fans are excited about that, and they should be. This guy is a pit bull. He’s a Raven.”
The most significant loss on the free-agency front was the departure of Jensen, who signed a four-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers worth $42 million. His average salary is $10.5 million, which makes him the highest-paid center in the game.
It’s the third-straight year that a Ravens offensive lineman has become the highest-paid player at his position, as Kelechi Osemele (left guard) and Rick Wagner (right tackle) both did as well.
“Slap on the back to Ryan Jensen and his family. Here’s a guy that has worked hard ever since he got in the league,” Harbaugh said. “He was an underdog, a sixth-round pick from Colorado State-Pueblo, and here he is signing the highest contract ever for a center in the National Football League.
“That’s part of coaching, to see somebody succeed like that, and to see a life-changing event for them and their family. That’s really rewarding as a coach. As disappointed as you are to lose a player like that, you’re happy for the player and for his family.”
Harbaugh also stressed that the Ravens aren’t done on the free-agency circuit.
They’ve reportedly pursued just about every big-name receiver and tight end to hit the open market, and they would like to continue adding targets for quarterback Joe Flacco over the next several weeks.
“I think that the approach that’s been taken has been great,” Harbaugh said. “I’m excited about it. And we’re still working.”