More than 11 years after leaving, Brandon Stokley is returning to the team that drafted him.
The Ravens have officially signed the veteran wide receiver to a one-year contract, and he was in front of fans once again at the team's open practice at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday evening. Stokley was at practice, but did not participate. He will practice for the first time Monday.
"It's awesome, it's a great feeling," Stokley said after practice. "The organization is great. To be able to have another opportunity to play here is special."
Stokley, 37, will help with Baltimore's need for a slot receiver now that Anquan Boldin has been traded, tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) is out for the year and tight end Ed Dickson (hamstring) and wide receiver Deonte Thompson (leg) are injured.
"It gives us experience," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "It gives us a guy who can catch balls in the slot, and he's done that over a number of years. He's done a great job with that, so it's an asset for us."
The Ravens were trying out Thompson, Tandon Doss and David Reed primarily in that role. But while they're all still learning it and growing, Stokley has been playing it for 14 years.
He has 384 career receptions for 5,224 yards and 39 touchdowns.
Harbaugh said that Stokley, Doss and Reed will all be part of the mix at slot receiver over the next few weeks during the preseason and remainder of training camp.
"There's going to be a real strong competition in that third down, move-the-chains-type underneath position," Harbaugh said. "And it's going to be really fun to see how it plays out."
In addition to signing Stokley, the Ravens also signed his former Colts teammate Dallas Clark. The veteran tight end will help fill a void with Dennis Pitta (dislocated hip) out for the year and Ed Dickson (hamstring) currently sidelined.
"They're both really accomplished players," Harbaugh said about the veteran signings. "We're excited to have them. By no means though is anything guaranteed, and they understand that. They want an opportunity to compete for a job. They'll be in competition for a job with our guys that are here, and we'll see how that plays out. That's how we like it."
With Peyton Manning throwing to him last year in Denver, Stokley had one of the best seasons of his career. He notched 45 receptions for 544 yards and five touchdowns, and started nine of the 15 games he played in.
After leaving Baltimore in 2002, Stokley played for the Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants. His best season was in 2004 with the Colts when he caught 68 passes for 1,077 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The Ravens drafted Stokley in the fourth round in 1999, and he played with them for four seasons. He was a reliable, savvy route runner who became a fan favorite.
"There's not a better organization in the league," Stokely said. "To have that opportunity to come back and play here again – you can't pass that up."
Stokley helped the Ravens win their first Super Bowl in 2000 when he caught the first touchdown of the game from quarterback Trent Dilfer. A painting of that play still hangs at the Ravens training complex.
Now the Ravens are banking on Stokley being able to rekindle the magic.