Late for Work 2/28: Should Ravens Seek Trade for A-List Wide Receiver?

Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. and Los Angeles Rams WR Brandin Cooks during an NFL game.
Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. and Los Angeles Rams WR Brandin Cooks during an NFL game.

Trading for A-List Receiver Would Be 'Daring Move'

Wide receiver is perennially one of the most talked-about positions among Ravens fans, and this offseason has been no different.

There is no shortage of discussion on whether the Ravens should pursue top-tier free agent wide receivers such as Amari Cooper or A.J. Green or use their first-round pick in the draft on another receiving weapon for Lamar Jackson.

ESPN's Football Outsiders offered another scenario. They proposed one daring move for every team, and the suggestion for Baltimore was that it should pursue a trade for an A-list wide receiver.

"Odell Beckham Jr.'s pouty act might play better with an established coaching staff," Football Outsiders wrote. "With cap hell looming for the Rams, the Ravens might be able to make a play for Brandin Cooks. If the Lions are dealing Darius Slay, why not ask about Kenny Golladay?

"There's absolutely nothing wrong with the status quo, and Baltimore already had a historic offense last season, but if the Ravens can manage to make their passing game as terrifying as their running game, opposing defenses aren't even going to have an out."

While Football Outsiders' suggestion certainly fits the description of daring, it doesn't seem very realistic. Especially far-fetched is the notion that the Cleveland Browns would even think about trading Beckham to a division rival.

It also doesn't seem like Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta's style to give up high draft picks to make a "daring" move. Plus, with such a deep pool of talented wide receivers in this year's draft class, trading for an A-list pass-catcher doesn't seem prudent.

A player not mentioned in the article who could be on the trading block and has been linked to the Ravens is former Maryland star Stefon Diggs of the Minnesota Vikings. When The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec commented a few weeks ago on the Ravens being a potential suitor for Diggs, he expressed a similar sentiment.

"When you take into account his salary and the draft pick currency the Ravens would probably have to give up to get him, his acquisition would certainly impact the team's ability to significantly improve their pass rush and rebuild their defensive front seven in free agency this year," Zrebiec wrote. "I know the obsession for a proven No. 1-caliber receiver probably overrides those things in a lot of people's minds, but I don't think it will with the Ravens' front office."

Another thing for Ravens fans to think about when obsessing over a No. 1 receiver: He may already be on the team. After what Marquise Brown showed during his rookie season despite not being 100 percent, he could become an A-lister himself in 2020.

If 'Hollywood' is completely healthy, like we expect him to be, we're looking at a Pro Bowl-level season for the former Oklahoma Sooner," Ebony Bird's Richard Bradshaw wrote. "Ravens Flock should be pretty dang excited with what Brown could be in Year 2."

Bucky Brooks: Laviska Shenault Jr. Would Be Perfect Fit for Ravens

Continuing with the obsession with wide receivers …

NFL Network's Bucky Brooks believes Laviska Shenault Jr. would be a perfect fit for the Ravens. The 6-foot-1, 227-pound receiver from Colorado has been linked to Baltimore -- which has the 28th-overall selection -- in some mock drafts.

"I know the Ravens used a pick on Hollywood Brown. Why not give Lamar Jackson another one?" Brooks said. "Hollywood Brown helped him become MVP. Maybe Laviska Shenault can help him become a Super Bowl champion.

"This is a guy that has the size to be able to win balls on the outside, and he's also a physical player in the running game. I like his ability to do some things maybe even in the fly-sweep game because we haven't seen the Ravens add that to their arsenal."

Brooks' colleague, Daniel Jeremiah, also said recently that Shenault would add another dimension to the Ravens offense.

"He is not super polished, but if you want to give the most creative offense and [give Offensive Coordinator] Greg Roman another toy … He is a 220-pound athletic freak who is still developing and growing as a pure wide receiver," Jeremiah said on Glenn Clark Radio. "If you're asking me who, selfishly, I would like to see plugged into that offense? That would be my choice."

Shenault's talent is obvious to anyone who has watched him play, but he didn't have a great day at the NFL Scouting Combine yesterday in Indianapolis.

"It was expected that Shenault would run in the 4.5s but he posted a time on the low end of the expected range (4.59 seconds) and then didn't run a second 40 or compete in any other drills," NFL.com draft analyst Chad Reuter wrote. "It's not yet clear if he suffered an injury during his run, but it was certainly not the showing he hoped for in a year that features an extremely deep pool of talent at his position. His 40 time is not bad at all for a 227-pound receiver, and I suspect it will improve at his pro day (40 times are usually better at pro days)."

Shenault, who was hampered by a groin injury during the season but reportedly won't require surgery, has been projected to be drafted in the first round somewhere in the 20s. It remains to be seen if his stock will fall after his showing at the Combine, but Reuter cautioned against putting too much emphasis on his subpar performance.

"Shenault's run-after-catch ability is among the class' best, and no workout can (or should) take that away from him," Reuter said. "However, on this occasion, he was unable to close the gap on the top-end receivers in the class."

Ravens Focus on Versatile Defenders at Combine

Time will tell if Shenault ends up in a Ravens uniform next season, but Baltimore's defense undoubtedly will be prepared to face opposing players with his versatile skill set.

"What makes Shenault a possible first-round Ravens target — his jack-of-all-trades adaptability, his brute-force athleticism — is also what will make him a nuisance for any defense that has to account for him on Sundays next season," The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer wrote. "The Ravens, maybe more than any other team at the NFL Scouting Combine, are preparing for those matchup inevitabilities. On their defense, versatility is almost a prerequisite.

"At outside linebacker, the Ravens are well positioned to retain pending free-agent outside linebacker Matthew Judon, who led the team in sacks and dropped into coverage over seven times per game last season, according to Pro Football Focus. At safety, Chuck Clark and Earl Thomas III seemed to blitz from the box as often as they covered center field. At cornerback, Marlon Humphrey earned All-Pro honors for his work in the slot — a position he'd never played, not even in college."

Given the Ravens' penchant for multi-faceted defensive players, Shaffer said it's no surprise the defenders most often linked to the Ravens in mock drafts are sideline-to-sideline linebackers Kenneth Murray of Oklahoma and Patrick Queen of LSU.

"The skill talent that's come in on offense [across the NFL] is going to continue to get faster and more athletic," NFL Network's Jeremiah said. "That's what the college game is, and that's made its way to the NFL. You better have linebackers that can run all day long and cover, and you better have safeties that can be interchangeable, can play high, can play low and can really run in range."

DeCosta explained what type of defensive players the Ravens look for during his press conference at the Combine earlier this week.

"When we evaluate players, we're always trying to find out how much they can do," DeCosta said. "Can they play inside the box? Can they play on the edge? Can they drop? Can they rush the passer? Are they smart players? Can they play multiple positions? Can corners play safety? Can safeties play corner?

"All those types of things really do factor into the evaluation process. They help you build a roster, No. 1. But on game day, they also help you create different looks that confuse the offense. And that's a big part of what we do."

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