The talk of adding a wide receiver seems like an annual rite of passage in Baltimore.
As the Ravens head into this offseason, the state of the wide receiving corps is once again a hot topic.
Steve Smith Sr. will be 36 years old next year. Torrey Smith is an unrestricted free agent. Young players like Marlon Brown and Kamar Aiken have come up with key catches in big games, but they need their chances to get on the field.
The group has talent, but the Ravens will still have their eye on the wide receiver market.
"It doesn't mean we won't add a guy or two, but that's a good, young corps of wide receivers," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
Here's the full breakdown on the wide receiving unit heading into the offseason:
What is Smith Sr.'s plan?
Immediately after the divisional-round loss to England, Steve Smith Sr. posted on Instagram that he plans to return next year and "watch us go WIN IT ALL." As the Ravens parted this offseason, General Manager Ozzie Newsome told Smith to take a few weeks to relax and get away from the game before making a final decision. "Take three weeks and get a chance to take a nap, figuratively, and kind of decide how you feel," Harbaugh said. Smith is already under contract for next season, and his return would allow the Ravens to keep their most productive receiver from the season. Smith showed that he still has plenty of football left in him, catching 79 passes for 1,065 yards and six touchdowns this year. "He looks like he still has plenty left in the tank to me," Harbaugh said. "It's up to Steve, really, in the end – how he feels and if he thinks he can do it physically."
Will T. Smith Return?
One of the biggest questions heading into the offseason is whether the Ravens will re-sign Torrey Smith. He has been the team's most productive receiver over the last four years, and he's a fan favorite in Baltimore. He has said on many occasions that he hopes to stay in Baltimore long-term, and Harbaugh said last week that the feeling is mutual. "I think I speak for everybody when I say we like Torrey a lot, we'd like to have him back. We'll just have to see how it plays out," Harbaugh said. Smith's return likely depends on the financial considerations, and how big of a contract his agent will seek. The hope is to keep Smith in Baltimore, but the Ravens may have to turn to their younger pieces, the draft or the market if the two sides can't come to an agreement.
Young, Proven Commodities
If either of the Smiths are not back in Baltimore next season, the Ravens would have young players with experience to help fill their shoes. Brown has been a quality player the last two years, even though his playing time was cut this season with the arrival of Steve Smith. Brown started 12 games his rookie year and caught seven touchdowns, but he started just one game this year and finished with 255 receiving yards. Brown, 6-foot-5 and 214 pounds, is a big receiver with potential, but he needs opportunities to get on the field. "Marlon has done such a great job," Harbaugh said. Aiken is in a similar position. He emerged in training camp this year and made the team as one of the surprises. The Ravens didn't hesitate to throw him into big-game situations this year, and he caught 24 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns. The other receiver on the roster with plenty of experience is veteran Jacoby Jones, who is under contract for next year. He was used primarily in the return game in 2014, but the Ravens could put him back in the receiver rotation if needed.
The Ravens have a group of receivers with high expectations, but who have yet to prove themselves. Seventh-round pick Michael Campanaro falls into this category after a rookie season where he played in four games and caught seven passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. The Ravens drafted him as an ideal slot receiver to move the chains and work the middle of the field, but much of his rookie season was hampered by a nagging hamstring injury. "We have to get Campanaro to the point where he can really be durable through the whole season and get those hamstrings right," Harbaugh said. "That's something he's going to go to work really hard on [in] the offseason." Another receiver who the Ravens have high hopes for is Jeremy Butler, who flashed during training camp but landed on injured reserve before the season. The Ravens like his potential – "We're pretty excited" about Butler, Harbaugh said – and he could play his way into the rotation with a strong offseason and training camp.