The Ravens have seen firsthand what Michael Crabtree is capable of.
Thus, when he became available after the Oakland Raiders released him Thursday, the Ravens immediately booked him for a free-agency visit. And once in Baltimore, the Ravens didn’t let the veteran wide receiver get away.
Baltimore signed Crabtree to a three-year deal Friday afternoon (this time it’s official), giving the Ravens a bona fide top-flight receiver to lead their remade unit.
The contract is worth $21 million overall with $15 million over the first two years, and it could reach up to $20 million if incentives are met, reports NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. It has $11 million guaranteed.
Crabtree said his favorite team growing up in Dallas was the Ravens, and he always envisioned himself playing in Baltimore.
The respect was mutual. The Ravens were the first team to call Crabtree after he was released and he was on the first flight to Baltimore.
“I feel like I'm at home,” Crabtree said. “I’m excited to put this purple on.”
Crabtree, 30, has faced the Ravens each of the past three years. Over that time, he’s posted 22 catches for 281 yards and five touchdowns. No receiver has scored more touchdowns against Baltimore since 2015.
“Michael has played very well against the Ravens, so we know firsthand the attributes he brings to the game,” General Manager Ozzie Newsome stated. “He is a smart, tough, physical receiver who battles for the ball. We like his temperament and believe he is a good fit for our football team, on and off the field.”
Crabtree has had excellent production throughout his nine NFL seasons. He logged two 1,000-yard seasons (2016 and 2012). The 2009 first-round pick has averaged 64 catches for 763 yards and six touchdowns per season.
His ability to win in the red zone is badly needed in Baltimore. Ravens receivers combined to score 11 touchdowns last season. Crabtree had eight in a “down” year.
Crabtree also brings durability to a receiver group that struggled with injuries last year. Outside of 2013, when a torn Achilles ended his season after five games, Crabtree has missed just eight games in his other eight years.
He’s 6-foot-1, 215 pounds and can win outside with his size and physicality. Crabtree has strong hands, toughness, veteran savvy and plays “above the rim.”
The knock on him, and part of the reason why Crabtree was replaced by Jordy Nelson in Oakland, is because he is coming off one of his worst seasons. In an offense that, as a whole, dropped off after a gangbusters 2016 season, he posted 58 catches for 618 yards and eight scores.
Crabtree said he has a chip on his shoulder to prove that he can play ball no matter his age. If that sounds familiar, it’s because other veteran wideouts such as Steve Smith Sr., Mike Wallace, Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason have done just that when joining Baltimore late in their careers.
“I feel like I’m in my prime right now,” Crabtree said. “I’m ready to go. I feel like I’m still 25, man.”
It was a natural fit with Crabtree and the Ravens on several levels beyond growing up a Ravens fan.
He spent his first six NFL seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, including four with Jim Harbaugh as his head coach. Ravens Assistant Head Coach Greg Roman was Crabtree’s offensive coordinator in San Francisco. Ravens Wide Receivers Coach Bobby Engram was a 49ers assistant offensive coach in 2011.
“It’s guys I’ve been around pretty much my whole career,” Crabtree said. “Being with Coach Harbaugh … Jim and John are like the same to me. When I talk to them, it sounds like I’m talking to the same person, as if they were twins or something.”
The Ravens’ on-field history with Crabtree also dates back to the 2012 championship season. Crabtree was targeted on three straight passes in the Ravens’ final goal-line stand to win Super Bowl XLVII. He said memories of that came back during his nearly 12-hour visit Friday.
The Ravens’ wide receiver corps is starting to take shape, but likely not done. Crabtree joins fellow free agent addition John “Smokey” Brown and those already under contract in Chris Moore, Breshad Perriman, Tim White, Quincy Adeboyejo and DeVier Posey.
“I feel like I always have something to prove,” Crabtree said. “Coming off the year I had last year with the Raiders and the Ravens had at receiver last year, there’s a lot to prove at the position. I’m sure the rest of the guys are ready to go, just like me.”