Skip to main content
Presented by

Mailbag: What Are the Plans at Wide Receiver?

WR Rashod Bateman
WR Rashod Bateman

Mink: The Ravens' clear top objective last offseason was to upgrade their wide receiver room. Keeping that unit well stocked will continue to be a high priority, but Baltimore is in much better starting position this offseason than last, so I don't expect a rebuild as much as a refresh.

Zay Flowers had a superb rookie season and projects for even bigger things in Year 2. Rashod Bateman is coming off his first healthy season, which puts him in excellent position to have a breakout Year 4. The stats (32 catches for 367 yards and one touchdown) don't jive with how often Bateman was getting open last season. Head Coach John Harbaugh said he expects Bateman to "be a bigger part of it next year." That's a strong 1-2 combo.

It wouldn't surprise me to see the Ravens bring back veteran Nelson Agholor, who made a strong impression on his one-year deal. Odell Beckham Jr. and Devin Duvernay are both unrestricted free agents. I don't see the Ravens spending big money on keeping a free agent or bringing in a new one. They just don't have the salary-cap space. Asked whether he would like to come back to Baltimore this offseason, Beckham said, "I absolutely love this place. I don't know the political answer to that question, but I've enjoyed every single moment."

Ultimately, I expect Baltimore to keep refueling this room with rookie talent. Eric DeCosta has drafted a wide receiver in the first round in three of his five drafts as general manager. Considering the bigger needs at other positions, that trend is unlikely to continue this year, but I also wouldn't rule it out. Either way, expect a wide receiver to be drafted sometime in the earlier rounds.

Downing: Change is part of life in the NFL, and the truth is that most position groups will go through some significant change this offseason. The one position that I think will remain virtually unchanged is the tight end group. Mark Andrews, Isaiah Likely and Charlie Kolar will all be back next year, with Andrews and Likely as one of the best tandems in the entire league. The rest of the roster will probably undergo some big changes.

As far as the group that will see the biggest changes, I'll point to the outside linebackers on defense and the running backs on offense. Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy are free agents, and Tyus Bowser's status is unclear after he spent the entire season on the non-football injury list. David Ojabo is expected to return from his knee injury to team up with Odafe Oweh, but the Ravens will need to add some more pieces to that group, especially if Clowney and Van Noy leave this offseason. At running back, Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins are both free agents. Keaton Mitchell is coming off a knee injury that puts his status in question, especially early in the season. Justice Hill is still under contract and is an important piece of the equation, but there are questions all around him. I expect the Ravens to add pieces to the backfield through free agency or the draft, and it's unclear at this point who will be the starting running back to open the 2024 season.

Mink: As Garrett said, the future of the Ravens' outside linebackers is cloudy. Oweh and Tavius Robinson are the only returners without question marks. Baltimore will need to supplement the young group with veterans again and add more youth.

Clowney (9.5 sacks) and Van Noy (nine sacks) are both coming off career years in their early 30s. That makes them a tricky evaluation for the market, which I expect will ultimately determine their cost and whether they return to Baltimore. The tape doesn't lie that both were highly effective this season. Both proved that the rest of the league wrote them off too soon. But will the league treat them differently one year later or see their big seasons as aberrations?

I don't expect either veteran to fly off the market soon after free agency opens. Neither is probably in a big rush to sign unless they get blown away by an offer, which I don't expect with some other free agents such as Brian Burns, Danielle Hunter, Josh Allen, Chase Young, Jonathan Greenard, and Josh Uche available. Plus, neither Clowney nor Van Noy have been in a rush to sign in previous years. Clowney has been the king of the late one-year deals.

Spotrac projects Clowney's market value at one year, $7.2 million. Could that be in Baltimore's budget? Maybe. There is no projection for Van Noy. I think both veterans would like to return to the Ravens if the money is right, but I doubt both are back. My gut says one returns.

Downing: The use of void years is a tool in the chest for DeCosta as he tries to construct the best roster every season. The Ravens used void years with contracts for Beckham, Agholor, Edwards, Kevin Zeitler, Rock Ya-Sin, and Geno Stone, allowing them to build a great roster that finished with the best record in the AFC. I wouldn't rule out the possibility of them trying that again this season and in future years.

But it's all a balance. DeCosta has talked in the past about the desire to have a flat cap from year to year, rather than back-loading deals that lead to huge cap numbers at the end of contracts. The same logic can be applied to void years, which essentially defer cap hits over the course of multiple seasons rather than taking on that money all at once. With Lamar Jackson under contract and some big cap numbers coming in future years, DeCosta and the Ravens will have to be creative at managing the salary cap. Void years could be a piece of that equation, but the Ravens also want to be cognizant of putting too much on the "credit card" that they'll ultimately have to pay down the line.

Related Content