Tight End Is an Under-the-Radar Way to Upgrade Passing Attack

Left: TE Mark Andrews; Right: TE Nick Boyle

General Manager Eric DeCosta calls the Ravens' offense "tight end-centric." So while much of the offseason attention is on wide receiver, don't be surprised if the Ravens add to their tight end group this offseason, whether it's via the draft, free agency or trade.

Using multiple formations, Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman has found extremely effective ways to maximize the tight end position during his time in the NFL.

The prime example was in 2019, when the Ravens' tight end trio of Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, and Hayden Hurst combined for 125 catches, 1,522 yards and 14 touchdowns. During that season, the Ravens lined up an NFL-high 42.7 percent of the time in formations that featured at least two tight ends and Pro Bowl fullback Patrick Ricard.

However, in 2020, the Ravens' offense was forced to adjust after Hurst was traded to the Atlanta Falcons. Andrews remained a consistent threat (58 catches, 701 yards, seven touchdowns), but Boyle played just nine games before a season-ending knee injury.

DeCosta said circumstances changed in 2020, but the Ravens' affinity for multiple tight end sets did not. Baltimore extended Boyle's contract through 2023 and could bolster the tight ends group this offseason.

"It was a different room, it was a different situation this year, and I think the coaches did an awesome job of using the personnel that we had to make us as successful as possible," DeCosta said.

"We'll look at personnel, we'll look at free agency, we'll look at the draft, and certainly we're very much a tight end-centric offense. So, if there is a tight end there available in the draft, if somebody else happens to fall to us in free agency, we would certainly look at that as a possibility. We know that Greg can take those tight ends and really go to the lab and find some ways to use these guys to make us more productive on offense."

Following Boyle's injury, the Ravens utilized Ricard more as a hybrid tight end, and he remained a devastating blocker while making some key catches. During Baltimore's playoff win over the Tennessee Titans, Ricard had three receptions for 29 yards during on Baltimore's go-ahead touchdown drive to begin the second half.

But the Ravens missed Boyle's blocking and receiving, and getting him back in 2021 will be a huge plus. Andrews is one of the league's top tight ends, and the Ravens will be looking for another pass-catching tight end to relieve pressure on Andrews and Boyle. Jake Breeland, Eli Wolf, and Sean Culkin are three tight ends on the roster with an opportunity, and the Ravens may explore signing a veteran if one becomes available at the right price.

Some of the top pending unrestricted free agents are the Chargers' Hunter Henry, Titans' Jonnu Smith, Saints' Jared Cook, Bills' Tyler Kroft and Rams' Gerald Everett. Meanwhile, the top tight end prospects are Florida's Kyle Pitts, who will likely be gone before pick No. 27, Miami's Brevin Jordan and Penn State's Pat Freiermuth.

After scoring just three points in their playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills, the Ravens are looking for ways to become more potent. Most of the talk by pundits has focused on adding a wide receiver. However, acquiring another tight end who becomes a regular part of the offense could be part of the equation to boost the passing attack.

"It kind of comes down to who you can get, and what they're going to cost in the end, and who wants to be here," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "I think a big, physical receiver would be awesome for us, and a big target for Lamar. It could be another tight end, too, or a speed guy that can open things up."

Related Content