Even though he’s 30 years old, Michael Crabtree said he feels like he’s 25.
Most of the wide receivers he’ll be joining in Baltimore are actually under 25 years old.
The Ravens could still sign another veteran, but as he enters his 10th season, Crabtree for now stands as Baltimore’s eldest wide receiver. And he’s looking forward to re-building and leading a young group.
“In football, I feel like age doesn’t really determine the drive that you have,” Crabtree said.
“When I came in the league early, I felt like I was the leader in the room at 21. But it was more leading by example. The older I’ve gotten, it seems like it’s more verbal. … I’m comfortable with it.”
The Ravens added Crabtree for more than his high production, specifically in scoring touchdowns.
In his statement after the signing, General Manager Ozzie Newsome noted that the Ravens “like [Crabtree’s] temperament and believe he is a good fit for our football team, on and off the field.”
The Ravens have previously leaned on leadership from veteran wide receivers such as Steve Smith Sr., Mike Wallace, Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason. Now Crabtree may be next.
He’s surrounded by a young cast. DeVier Posey, who the Ravens signed from the Canadian Football League, is the second-oldest wideout at 28. Fellow free-agent addition John Brown is next in line at 27. Breshad Perriman and Chris Moore are 24, Tim White is 23, and Quincy Adeboyejo is 22.
That’s a lot of unproven youth, as the Ravens have gone about overhauling their wide receiver corps with fresh faces.
While starting fresh can be daunting, it was actually helpful in selling Baltimore to Brown and, seemingly, Crabtree. Both are looking to re-boot after the worst seasons of their careers, and are eager to do it together.
“Coming off the year I had at the Raiders, and the Ravens had at receiver last year, there’s a lot to prove at the position,” Crabtree said. “I’m sure the rest of the guys are ready to go just like me.”
Crabtree and Brown met Friday, as Crabtree was getting a tour and Brown stuck around for a morning press conference.
Brown said the Ravens’ turnover at wide receiver was the main reason why he signed a one-year deal with Baltimore. Only two players (Moore and Perriman) who have caught a regular-season pass in purple and black are currently back. It’s wide open for anyone to step up.
“Seeing that they were getting rid of everybody, and I could come in and fill in one of those pieces to the puzzle [was intriguing],” Brown said. “[I want to] just come in and help the team the best way I can.”
The Ravens’ leading receiver last year was Wallace, and he posted just 52 catches for 748 yards and four touchdowns. All of Baltimore’s wideouts scored a combined 11 touchdowns last year – the same amount as Crabtree and Brown.
Last offseason, Jeremy Maclin talked about teaming up with Wallace and Perriman to form the NFL’s best trio. That didn’t come close to panning out. Now Crabtree and Brown will take their shot.
Brown will bring the speed. Crabtree brings experience and an edge. It’s that feistiness that could help Baltimore’s receiving unit much like Smith, Boldin and Mason were leading the way.
Crabtree has only missed two games since tearing his Achilles in 2013. Both absences came last year because he was suspended for throwing haymaker punches at former Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib.
“I really can’t describe it. It’s just a feeling,” Crabtree said when asked about his intensity.
“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. You take it off, and you have a whole other guy.”