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What's the Ravens' Offseason Plan at Wide Receiver?

Ravens Wide Receivers
Ravens Wide Receivers

While much of the buzz surrounding the Ravens this offseason centers around what they'll do at wide receiver, General Manager Eric DeCosta and Head Coach John Harbaugh aren't adding to the chatter.

DeCosta must hear the clamoring for Baltimore to upgrade its wide receiver corps because he was surprised he didn't get his first question about it until 25 minutes into Tuesday's press conference.

"I was waiting for the first receiver question; I didn't know how long it was going to take," he said with a chuckle. "I think we have an idea of what we're looking for. It doesn't really serve my purposes to tell you exactly what we're looking for, player-wise, but we do talk about that stuff."

Harbaugh didn't say whether he feels the team needs a veteran wide receiver. He also said it's not as easy as saying "we want this type of receiver." It all depends on who is available and at what cost.

Discussions on the plan for boosting the unit began in the Ravens' personnel meetings around when Super Bowl LV was played. A self-scout is the first part of the process of evaluating the urgency level and specifics of needs.

Top wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown took the next step in his development as a sophomore and was especially productive down the stretch, finishing with a team-leading 58 receptions for 769 yards and eight touchdowns. But he may be the only sure thing in the Ravens' wide receiver room.

Willie Snead IV and Dez Bryant are both pending unrestricted free agents. Miles Boykin posted 19 catches for 266 yards and four touchdowns in his second season but may have made his biggest impact as an outside blocker.

Harbaugh unequivocally said that although Boykin does run some tight end routes – and could do more of that based on what tight ends they have next year – his position moving forward is "absolutely" still wide receiver.

Rookie third-round pick Devin Duvernay flashed his offensive potential with 20 catches for 201 yards, as well as some successful jet sweeps. Rookie sixth-round pick James Proche II had just 25 offensive snaps, serving mostly as the team's punt returner for much of the season, but was promising in practice. Harbaugh said he expects both to make a "big jump" next season.

So where does that leave the Ravens in their search for help?

Baltimore could use more weapons opposite Brown and besides tight end Mark Andrews. Brown brings the field-stretching speed and Andrews is a savant at finding openings, particularly in the middle of the field and in the red zone. That leaves a need for another outside receiver Lamar Jackson trusts to make contested catches and move the chains.

The Ravens ranked last in the league in wide receiver production in part because they're such a run-heavy team, but also because they weren't as efficient as they could have been.

Two of the top free-agent wide receivers who could have hit the market – Chicago's Allen Robinson and Tampa Bay's Chris Godwin – got the franchise tag. Detroit's Kenny Golladay did not get tagged and will be the top available wide receiver, but is probably too expensive.

Other big-name free agent wide receivers include Sammy Watkins, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marvin Jones, Corey Davis, A.J. Green and T.Y. Hilton. There will also be more wide receivers released between now and the start of free agency as teams seek to clear cap space amidst a shrinking salary cap.

"There are a lot of good players available in free agency, and [salary] cap-casualty-wise," Harbaugh said.

It wouldn't be surprising to see the Ravens invest in a free-agent wide receiver and again address the position via the draft. Baltimore has selected two wide receivers in each of the past three years, taking more swings at a position that has, for the most part, flummoxed them in the draft.

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. said wide receiver is the strongest position group in this year’s class and has projected the Ravens to select LSU wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. with pick No. 27 in his latest mock draft. He isn’t the only pundit predicting an early pick at wide receiver.

"[We're] going through the draft receivers now as we speak, and there are a lot of good receivers in the draft," Harbaugh said. "It's really pretty much been like that every year, but this is definitely a good year. So, yes, I'm excited about it – and I'm quite sure that we can address all of our needs."

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