Welcome to my new column. I have to thank John Harbaugh. His "I could care less what Ryan Mink thinks" comment (with a grin) was the inspiration. So here goes nothing. Harbs won't care, but I'm hoping you will!
I know it's tough to preach patience when Ravens fans have been waiting 25 years for a homegrown, star wide receiver, but that's what I'm going to attempt to do.
After not signing a wide receiver to a multi-year mega deal this offseason, there's been recent buzz about the possibility of the Ravens adding another veteran wideout, even after inking Sammy Watkins. The Antonio Brown-to-the-Ravens talk geared up (again) after he worked out with Lamar Jackson and cousin Marquise Brown (again). There are also ideas about the Ravens potentially trading for a veteran wide receiver.
I don't expect any of that to happen because it doesn't jive with the Ravens' organizational draft-and-develop plan. It's a plan that fans should give more of a chance – yes, even at wide receiver.
Since Eric DeCosta took over two years ago, he's made a commitment to trying to hit on that elusive star wide receiver in the draft.
"One of the biggest things that we have to do is just take some at-bats and swing," DeCosta said two years ago around this time. "It's hard to be a .400 hitter if you're only at bat twice. We've got to take some chances."
With his very first pick as general manager, DeCosta selected a wide receiver (Brown). In the last two drafts, the Ravens have selected three wide receivers in the first three rounds, including Miles Boykin in 2019 and Devin Duvernay in 2020. This year, Baltimore will probably take another wide receiver at some point, and it could happen in the first round.
The Ravens want to give Jackson weapons to help him, and their passing game, take the next step. But they also aren't going to trash their run-based scheme. If Baltimore is still going to rank at or near the bottom of the league in passing attempts, it doesn't make much sense to commit massive dollars at the position.
The Ravens were apparently willing to make a splash investment this season, as they reportedly offered free agent JuJu Smith-Schuster a deal worth up to $13 million. But that was for one year. The long-term plan is still intact – draft and develop. Drafting wide receivers is the more budget-friendly option while still trying to provide Jackson, who is in line for a massive second contract, with targets and talent.
But those banging the drum for the team to add another veteran wide receiver – probably the same people that pined for Baltimore to fork over a massive deal to free agent Kenny Golladay – seemingly aren't ready for more rookie wide receivers.
Why? Because some of you have lost patience with the Ravens' ability to draft the right wide receivers. There's no sugarcoating that there have been more misses than hits at the position over the years.
DeCosta and his team have intensely studied the causes of that and feel like they've drawn some conclusions. DeCosta deserves more time to show that he can break the Ravens' wide receiver curse, and he's gotten off to an encouraging start.
Brown had a strong sophomore campaign and showed growth. A wide receiver who posted 769 yards and eight touchdowns in an offense that threw the ball, by far, the least in the NFL is nothing to sneeze at.
Boykin's career can't be scripted by the end of his second season. Anybody watching the games could see the spark Duvernay added, and he's expected to have a bigger role next season. Fellow rookie James Proche III also has offensive potential.
The point is, the Ravens have a handful of ascending young receivers. Before looking for veterans to replace them, the youngsters deserve a chance to grow. Just because some of their predecessors didn't ultimately pan out, or at least not fast enough, doesn't mean these receivers will follow the same path. They're different people.
The Ravens have also taken steps to improve their development of wide receivers, hiring Wide Receivers Coach Tee Martin and bringing in Pass Game Specialist Keith Williams – an outside-the-box addition – to specifically drill into route running. I'm eager to see what imprint they can make on these young wideouts.
The Ravens know they are in good position to potentially win a Super Bowl and that improving their passing attack is a key element to getting there. Patience shouldn't be mistaken for complacency. Let's see what's in store next.