Anquan Boldin Gives Michael Crabtree Signing Two Thumbs Up
One of the Ravens' best offseason acquisitions, especially at wide receiver, was Anquan Boldin.
After Boldin's three years, more than 2,500 yards and one incredible Super Bowl run in purple, Ravens fans still talk about wanting Boldin back.
The next best thing may be Michael Crabtree, who the Ravens inked to a three-year deal late Friday afternoon. Boldin himself gave it two thumbs up.
"I think he’ll be a reliable receiver for Joe," Boldin told The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec before Saturday night's Torrey Smith Family Fund Charity Basketball Game at Royal Farms Arena.
"They're getting a very competitive guy."
Boldin knows a thing or two about being competitive. He was one of the most competitive, intense wide receivers in Ravens team history, and he has a lot of competition with Steve Smith Sr., Derrick Mason and others.
Boldin and Crabtree played together for two years with the San Francisco 49ers (2013, 2014). Boldin topped 1,000 yards in each season while Crabtree tore his Achilles after five games in 2013, then fought back to post nearly 700 yards the following year.
"Like I said, competitive guy, he's a crafty guy, a veteran guy, a guy that can really catch the ball," Boldin said. "I think you've seen from his production the last three years in Oakland how productive he can be. They're getting a good player."
It's not too surprising that Boldin would like Crabtree. The two are more alike in playing style than different.
Per ESPN, in 2009, then-49ers General Manager Scot McCloughan said Crabtree was the "closest thing I've seen to Anquan Boldin in college," then used the 10th-overall pick on him.
"He's got excellent hands. He's got the physical attributes to play on the NFL level and to make plays," McCloughan said nine years ago. "There's faster guys in the draft, no doubt about it. There'll be faster guys in the NFL. But he brings unique qualities. He can play physical and make plays on the NFL level."
Both players have nearly the exact same size at 6-foot-1 and about 215 pounds. They use it to make contested catches for first downs and in the red zone.
"Perhaps, most importantly, Crabtree brings the competitiveness and clutch play that some will say has been missing in the Ravens' passing attack since Boldin last played," ESPN wrote. "Crabtree's Boldin-like impact will likely be felt in moving the chains and scoring late in games."
Flacco and the Ravens needed more reliability from their wide receivers. They had three big-play threats last year with Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman and Jeremy Maclin, but none of the three panned out.
Dropped passes doomed the Ravens at critical times, leading to interceptions in losses to the Chicago Bears and Tennessee Titans, and short-circuiting the offense in the season-finale loss against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Crabtree brings a long track record of high production, particularly in clutch moments, per ESPN's stats. He's converted the ninth-most third downs since he entered the NFL in 2009 (Boldin ranks sixth). Over the past four years, only four players have caught more fourth-quarter touchdowns than Crabtree's nine.
Crabtree brings an intensity that the Ravens have coveted in successful past veteran wide receiver.
"I really can't describe it. It's just a feeling," Crabtree said. "I love to play the game, so as soon as you put the helmet and shoulder pads on, it's just go-time. You go for what you know -- and that's football."
For what it's worth, ESPN gave the signing a "B-minus" grade.
"He's the sort of receiver the Ravens needed, but he's riskier than those consistent numbers from Oakland might suggest," wrote ESPN's Bill Barnwell.
Tyrod Taylor Looking Forward to Playing Ravens Twice a Year
Another former Raven that came back to Baltimore for Smith's charity basketball game is Taylor, and Ravens fans are going to see a lot more of him going forward.
The Browns traded for Taylor before free agency opened, then Head Coach Hue Jackson named him their starting quarterback for 2018 on Thursday.
"There is no competition," Jackson said.
The Ravens have only played against Taylor once. In the 2016 regular-season opener at M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore held Taylor to just 111 passing yards on 22 attempts, zero touchdowns, 11 rushing yards and sacked him twice. The Ravens won, 13-7.
Now Taylor is looking forward to getting another shot at his former team, who used him as a backup to Joe Flacco for four years.
"I look forward to playing the Ravens as well as the other teams in the division," Taylor told Zrebiec.
That's about the tamest "trash talk" ever, and just what we would expect from Taylor, who has been nothing but a consummate pro.
"There's always a special place in our heart for Baltimore," Taylor said. "Ultimately, it's where our professional career started. Anytime you can come back and give back to the community that initially welcomed us in is definitely special."
Ravens Still Need to Add a No. 1 Wide Receiver
Ravens fans are jacked up about the Crabtree signing, as they should be. Crabtree and John "Smokey" Brown suddenly give Baltimore a pair of interesting weapons.
But that doesn't change the fact that the Ravens still need to add a "No. 1 receiver."
General Manager Ozzie Newsome doesn't appear to be done pursuing pass-catching options in free agency, whether at receiver or tight end. He said he would have still gone after Crabtree even if the deal with Ryan Grant hadn't fallen through because of a failed physical.
But the Ravens' quest for a receiver who would widely be considered a true No. 1 came up empty when Baltimore was reportedly outbid for Jarvis Landry and Allen Robinson.
It's not often that elite wide receivers hit the market, and when they do, they often come with some concerns. Robinson, for example, is coming off a torn ACL.
Thus, the Ravens' quest for that long-term answer at wide receiver will likely have to turn to the draft.
"There are a lot of receivers at the top of the draft class, but if the Ravens are looking for a real No. 1, the No. 16 pick may have to be used to nab a receiver," Stites wrote.
Alabama's Calvin Ridley is still considered to be the top wide receiver in the class, though it may be a lot to expect a rookie (even a first-round pick) to come in and be an instant No. 1.
Many analysts and evaluators, including Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz, have said this year's draft class doesn't offer an elite option such as an A.J. Green or Julio Jones. But that's not to say that a rookie wide receiver can't be productive or turn into a top target in time.
Ranking Worst Early Free Agency Moves
Personally, I find a lot of these grades and rankings of free agency moves to be pretty silly. It's kind of like instantly grading draft classes. Who knows?
That said, Bleacher Report's Ian Wharton compiled his ranking of the NFL's 10 worst early free-agency moves, and two stood out.
Could the Ravens capitalize on both?
7. Oakland Raiders Swapping Out Michael Crabtree for Jordy Nelson
"[Crabtree], like the rest of the Raiders offense, suffered a letdown in 2017 but reached eight touchdowns for the third straight season. If anything, keeping Crabtree with Nelson made the most sense. … [Nelson] would work better as a third pass-catcher behind Crabtree and Amari Cooper, as all three can play inside and outside of formations."
3. Detroit Lions Release Eric Ebron
"The Detroit Lions' decision to release tight end Eric Ebron was one of the more puzzling recent moves. The 24-year-old was cut despite showing promise in each of the past two years," Wharton wrote.
"Ebron is a solid receiving threat with little impact in the blocking game. He should have a good market as the tight end draft class looks mediocre once again. He's also hitting his prime."
Other than the Miami Dolphins' release of Ndamukong Suh, the releases of Crabtree and Ebron were the only cuts that made the list.
"We've made a living on what we would consider 'cap casualties,'" Newsome said Friday.
- Boldin, 37, told reporters this weekend that he still works out and could still play in the NFL. "Definitely," he told Zrebiec. "If I wanted to, I know I could." It's still highly unlikely after the 37-year-old didn't suit up all last season and has shifted focus to working with the Players Coalition. [The Sun]
- Barnwell gave the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' signing of former Ravens center Ryan Jensen a “C” grade. "As always, the issue is gauging one year of success versus a player's career. Jensen was a relatively anonymous guard. After one year of good football, the Buccaneers are making a bet that he'll continue to be one of the best centers in football. Sometimes, that works out, but the chances are always going to be greater that a player performing at a high level for a brief period of time takes a step backward (out of injury attrition or sheer regression to the mean) than a step forward." [ESPN]