Donte' Stallworth hasn't been the big-bodied, No. 1 wide receiver Ravens fans are pleading for this offseason. He is, however, a low-risk, high-reward investment that addresses one of Baltimore's most pressing needs.
Simply put, Stallworth has the potential to become the play-making, vertical threat the Ravens offense is seeking.
And with a one-year contract worth a reported $900,000, he isn't a costly option. Therefore, Stallworth's signing leaves the Ravens open to further improving at wide receiver or other positions this offseason.
"Our goal is to become a better team, and we work on that every day," Head Coach John Harbaugh simply stated. "Adding Donte' gives us the opportunity to improve."
The 6-foot Stallworth, 29, has proven that he can be a game-changer, a fact that led the Cleveland Browns to reward him with a seven-year, $35 million contract in 2008. Stallworth's best season came in 2005 with New Orleans when he made 70 catches for 945 yards and seven touchdowns.
While his reception totals trailed off since, Stallworth retained his knack for making big plays. He has averaged 14.8 yards per catch over his career, which ranks second to Demetrius Williams on the current Ravens wide receiving corps.
In 2006, while with the Philadelphia Eagles, Stallworth had touchdown receptions of 84 and 75 yards. In 2007, as a New England Patriot, he had a 69-yard touchdown reception as part of a seven-catch, 136-yard day against the Cowboys.
How much of that explosion Stallworth has left after sitting out with a one-year NFL suspension remains to be seen. And of course, he will have to remain healthy, something he has struggled with in past seasons.
Stallworth missed five games in 2008 with a quadriceps injury and four games in 2006 with a hamstring issue. He has played in all 16 games three times during his seven-year career.
After Stallworth's workout, the Ravens are convinced he still has that spark.
"We worked him out, and it's obvious he is working hard to be effective," General Manager Ozzie Newsome said, adding that he wants Stallworth in the Ravens' offseason programs.
Whether No. 1 wide receiver Derrick Mason retires, signs elsewhere or returns to Baltimore will impact how Stallworth fits into the Ravens' offense. It's also dependent on if the front office makes any other moves at the position.
But it seems unlikely that Stallworth would supplant Mason, who has eight 1,000-yard plus seasons in the past nine years and is the unquestioned leader of the group, at No. 1 on the depth chart. Mason said Stallworth certainly adds to the unit though.
"He's got the ability to get downfield, and he's proven that he can make plays," Mason said. "I think his experience will be the biggest part for him to head to the Baltimore Ravens and be a valuable asset."
Stallworth could work the slot, where his speed might open up the deep middle of the field, a place where the Ravens offense rarely attacked in 2009.
Last offseason, the Ravens took a chance on Kelley Washington with a one-year deal and he turned out to be a solid third-down possession receiver in the slot. Now, whether Washington resigns or not, the Ravens seem to be taking the same approach with Stallworth.
Except this time, Stallworth has proven success and brings a different element to the Ravens' offense, two valuable assets in a shriveled free agent market.