With the signing of Bryant McKinnie last week and the acquisiton of A.Q. Shipley earlier today, there is one glaring hole that still needs to be addressed by the Super Bowl champions. That need comes at the wide receiver position. Up until this offseason, this position seemed to be in the best shape of any on the roster for the Ravens. The staple of the core was Anquan Bolden but when he demanded an extension shortly after the Super Bowl, he was traded to the 49ers for virtually nothing. The Ravens virtually gave Bolden away as they traded him for just a 7th round pick in return. Now, with Anquan gone the receiving core looks a bit bleak.
Even though the draft has passed and the hottest free agent receivers are off the market, there still remains some solid options that can boost the receiving core of the Baltimore Ravens to be much more suitable for the freshly paid Joe Flacco. The following are receivers who I believe would be the best fits for the Super Bowl champions:
Brandon Lloyd- Lloyd is an eleven year veteran and has certainly been around the block a few times. His career started slow, but he eventually busted out in the 2010 season when he caught 77 balls for over 1400 yards in Denver. Since then, Brandon has posted three consecutive 70 catch seasons and even got his first look at the playoffs last season with New England. His experience playing both inside and outside receiver positions could help the versatility of the receiving core and he would be a solid third party to Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones. The only concern I have with Lloyd is that he will be 32 years of age when the season starts in September and could become an injury risk if he is signed to a long term contract.
Early Doucet- The 27 year old Doucet could also be a solid contributor for Baltimore. Early has spent all of his 5 year career in Arizona to this point and has been quite the playmaker since he stepped into the league. The LSU graduate has shown flashes of brilliance in Arizona but in his best season he produced just 54 catches for 689 yards. However, in his defense the past couple of seasons Doucet and the receiving core of Arizona hasn’t had the best quarterback situation. In Baltimore he could play the slot position and would have the same quarterback throwing to him every week, pending injury. If the Ravens are looking for the receiver on the market with the most upside, it would definitely be Doucet. However, he is much more of a risk signing than Lloyd would be.
Devery Henderson- Henderson is another former LSU receiver who has spent his entire 8 year career with the New Orleans Saints. Henderson has spent much of his career playing the slot receiver with guys like Joe Horn, Marques Colston, and others manning the outside of the offense in his tenure. My concern with Henderson is that his best season just produced 51 catches, however he has produced at least 20 catches in every season as a professional. In Henderson’s defense Drew Brees is a quarterback who loves to spread the ball around the offense. Henderson is very similar to Doucet and has produced some big plays in his career but at 31 years old compared to Doucet’s 27, he will come at a much cheaper price and will not want as long of a deal as Early.
Laurent Robinson- Robinson is probably the most unproven of the major receivers left out on the free agent market. Other than his impressive 2011 season in Dallas where he produced 54 catches and 11 touchdowns, Robinson hasn’t produced much in his 6 year career. Although in 3 of those seasons he had over 30 catches, he also produced catch totals of 5, 13, and 24 in injury shortened seasons. So although he is productive when he is healthy, the key stat to note on Robinson is that in his 6 year career he has only played 3 full seasons. He was signed last season by Jacksonville to be a key contributor to their receiving core and ultimately disappointed. That led to his release after playing just 7 games and catching 24 passes. Even though Robinson may be one of the more talented receivers left on the market, the risk of his injuries isn’t worth taking him over one of the three previously mentioned receivers.
Overall, the best option for the Ravens would have to be Lloyd. He brings versatility as well as a veteran leader to support this relatively young group. However, he would come at the steepest price. None of these options are suitable replacements for a guy like Bolden, these are simply patches in the largest hole left for the new look Ravens. Baltimore could very likely be after one if not more of these receivers but we never know what Ozzie Newsome has up his sleeve. Other names out on the free agent market are Brandon Stokley, the king of arrests Titus Young, Steve Breaston, and the self proclaimed GOAT Randy Moss. Ozzie could also be exploring options via trade or an un-drafted rookie that he and the coaching staff are quite high on. Whatever the case, adding a wide receiver to this core seems to be the last piece to the puzzle that needs to be placed prior to mini camp.