Ravens Need Multiple Receivers, But Free-Agent Market Is 'Underwhelming'
The Ravens made it clear at their season-ending press conference that they intend to upgrade the wide receiver room this offseason. Doing so is going to be easier said than done.
"The Ravens don't need one wide receiver. They need multiple receivers," Zrebiec wrote. "Even if the Ravens add a veteran pass catcher via free agency or a trade, they'll still enter the draft looking to upgrade their receiving corps."
Demarcus Robinson led the Ravens' 2022 receiving corps with 48 catches and 458 yards. Rashod Bateman's early-season foot injury had a ripple effect on the entire offense and Devin Duvernay cooled after a fast start and then went down late in the year, also to a foot injury.
"The Ravens had the least productive receiver room in the NFL last season. Season-ending injuries to Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay contributed to that, but the team was already thin at the position before they went down. Depending on young players who haven't shown much and past-their-prime street free agents is not a winning recipe," Zrebiec wrote.
"The Ravens need at least two quality receiver additions and the ideal scenario would be a veteran and an early-round draft pick. The free-agent wide receiver market is underwhelming, so the Ravens should be in on DeAndre Hopkins if he's available."
Some of the top unrestricted free-agent wide receivers are Allen Lazard, Jakobi Meyers, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman and DJ Chark. Whether they could make room for one, or somebody else, under the salary cap may depend on Lamar Jackson's contract.
Thus, Zrebiec envisions the Ravens looking more to the draft for a major investment at the position.
"[add]General manager Eric DeCosta has also never been shy to prioritize the position in the draft despite the organization's poor reputation in drafting and developing receivers. From 2019 to 2021, Baltimore drafted a league-high six wide receivers," Zrebiec wrote.
"If one of the top receivers in the draft is sitting there at No. 22, they should turn in the card with no hesitation."
Ravens Take WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba in Athletic Mock Draft
Mock drafts have gone heavy on the Ravens going wide receiver in Round 1, and The Athletic's latest mock draft is no different. This time, they take Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
"The Ravens have some talent at wideout but ended up finishing the season with Demarcus Robinson and Sammy Watkins starting in a playoff game," Max Olson wrote. "Smith-Njigba had a tough year, but it's still tough to pass on him here. He looked like a potential top-10 pick going into 2022 before his hamstring injury and still has a bright future as a playmaker in the slot."
According to Zrebiec, Smith-Njigba is a top-five receiver in the draft and is a player the Ravens will certainly be considering.
"Following a 95-catch, 1,606-yard sophomore season at Ohio State, Smith-Njigba was well on his way to garnering early first-round consideration," Zrebiec wrote. "However, injury issues kept him sidelined for the majority of 2022. Teams will have to be comfortable with his health, but there's a lot to otherwise like from the slot receiver. He is a polished route runner with reliable hands."
NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks has Smith-Njigba as the No. 1 wide receiver prospect.
"Smith-Njigba is a blue-chipper with the skills to emerge in the NFL as a big-play specialist from the slot. Although he missed most of 2022 with a nagging hamstring injury, the Ohio State product checks off all of the boxes as a pass catcher with high-end potential on Sundays."
Ravens QB Coach James Urban Linked to Browns
On Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals reportedly hired Cleveland Browns Quarterbacks Coach Drew Petzing to be their offensive coordinator. Interestingly, this could spawn movement within the Ravens organization.
According to Dawgs By Nature’s Jared Mueller, the position may not require a new quarterbacks coach.
"It is possible that Alex Van Pelt could return to holding both the offensive coordinator and QB coach positions as he had prior to Petzing taking over. It is also possible that Watson's former coach Sean Ryan could be in the running for the role," Mueller wrote.