Mailbag: Will the Ravens Sign a Wide Receiver?

031721-Mailbag
Lions WR Kenny Golladay

Mink: Pretty much all the questions this week were about A) Why the Ravens haven't signed a wide receiver or B) Whether they will sign a wide receiver. So here goes …

The answer to the first question is that the wideout market has been slow to materialize across the board. Only a handful of wideouts have been signed and some of the top names (Kenny Golladay, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Will Fuller V) are still available. Often, it takes one or two dominos to fall to set the market, and that's seemingly a little in flux for these wideouts, who all have some hang-ups (injury history, drop in production, etc.). The market seems to be picking up (A.J. Green to Arizona) a little Wednesday.

This year's wide receiver draft class is loaded, so teams may hope to strike gold with an instant-impact rookie instead of committing big money at the position. With a compressed salary cap, it could lead to the top wideouts either waiting longer than expected to sign or signing for less money than they hoped (or both).

Now, why hasn't Baltimore inked one of the top wideouts? Because wide receiver is not a premium position for the Ravens and free-agent wide receivers are expensive. The Ravens are a run-first team. They have always been that way and Lamar Jackson's unique running ability, which is what makes him truly special, has made them double down on a ground attack. Thus, the Ravens are going to commit resources to building a roster around what they do best (such as signing a stud guard in Kevin Zeitler).

Would a great wideout help take Jackson and the passing offense to another level? Sure. But how much better would that player make the Ravens overall if they throw the ball the fewest times in the NFL? I don't get the sense that the Ravens have much interest in changing their offensive formula. Judging by how much success they've had over the past three seasons with Jackson at the helm, I don't see a reason why they would.

People point to the playoffs as evidence that the Ravens' run-heavy scheme isn't good enough to beat the best teams. What I remember is that a pick-six (not a rushing attempt), followed by a high snap and hit that knocked Lamar out of the game, is what broke the Ravens' back in Buffalo. I don't think having an expensive wide receiver on either play would have changed the outcome. A big-time wide receiver would be an expensive luxury purchase. With so many other internal players to re-sign and defensive holes to fill, it doesn't seem high on the priority list.

That doesn't mean the Ravens won't bring in any veteran wide receiver. They could wait and see how much those prices fall or whether another veteran they like gets cut. But my expectation is that they will mostly continue to commit draft resources at the position rather than free-agency dollars.

Downing: While it's tough to lose the combination of Matthew Judon, Yannick Ngakoue and Jihad Ward, I do think the Ravens have confidence in their ability to bring pressure in Wink Martindale's defensive scheme. First of all, Martindale blitzes more than any coordinator in the league, so if the Ravens struggle to get to the quarterback on four-man pressures, then Martindale won't hesitate to turn up the heat in creative ways. That's why I'm not all that worried about the free-agency departures. In this defensive scheme, the pressure comes from a variety of places, not just the edge rushers. Martindale isn't afraid to blitz linebackers, cornerbacks or safeties, and he'll likely have to do more of that in a season where edge pressure is limited. The Ravens still have a strong defensive front with Brandon Williams, Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe gobbling up blockers in the middle, and then Martindale can scheme up some creative blitz packages to get after the quarterback. Of course, every team would love to have premier edge rushers, but the Ravens have an advantage by having one of the best (and more aggressive) defensive coordinators in the league.

Mink: We've talked a fair amount about when Lamar might get his extension (I get the feeling that it will wait until next offseason), so let's focus on Mark Andrews. While the Ravens have a fifth-year option on Jackson that could keep him under contract through 2022, they don't have that for Andrews. Thus, I expect that his extension will come at some point this offseason or during the season. Eric DeCosta was pretty clear in his recent comments that he wants to keep Andrews and said the two sides have had "preliminary discussions." The gears are moving, and my expectation is that a deal will be struck before the season is over.

Downing: I think we have incomplete information to answer that question right now. Much of this depends on how the rest of free agency plays out. If the Ravens somehow get into the sweepstakes for one of the top receivers (even though Mink clearly doesn't expect that to happen) or a pass rusher like Jadeveon Clowney or Carlos Dunlap, then that drastically changes the calculation. I reserve the right to change my answer based on what happens over the next two weeks. But as of right now, I think the Ravens would lean pass rusher in the first round. In this specific scenario, Azeez Ojulari from Georgia would be an exciting addition at pick No. 27. He had 9.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in 10 games last season, and he would help alleviate the edge rusher issue that we talked about earlier. Plus, this draft is loaded with wide receivers, so the Ravens could opt to wait to address that and still get a quality player on Day 2.

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