The Baltimore Ravens expressed a verbal commitment that they were going to improve their wideout room this offseason — now, what are the chances of that actually happening?
In the end-of-season presser, head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Eric DeCosta said all the right things. They declared their intentions to keep Lamar Jackson in Baltimore for, hopefully, the rest of his career, and bid farewell to Greg Roman, who has sculpted the Ravens’ offensive scheme for the last four seasons.
They also said something they have reiterated season after season which is: We’re going to rebuild the wide receiver room.
Harbaugh and DeCosta have made that point quite often in previous end-of-season press conferences; in last year’s presser DeCosta even told reporters the team was planning to pick up Hollywood Brown’s fifth year option.
The Ravens ended up trading Brown a few months later, so how much can we believe and how much should we ignore?
Ravens express desire to revitalize WR unit, but will they actually do it?
First of all, actions speak louder than words. The Ravens’ organization refused to acknowledge the wide receiver unit as a weakness last season, and they ended up paying sorely for their mistake.
In the Ravens’ Wild Card loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the wide receivers on the field in a potentially game-tying drive were Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson. The team can’t lean on their passing game if those two vets are their top receiving options in a high-stakes playoff matchup.
It doesn’t matter that Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay suffered season-ending injuries or that Lamar Jackson missed the final stretch of the season — serious playoff contenders have adequate depth at skill positions, and the Ravens were clearly shorthanded to start with.
The wide receiver position remains the glaring Achilles’ heel of the roster, and overhauling the unit appears to be one of the franchise’s priorities heading into the offseason. Until the organization actually makes a concrete change, though, fans have no reason to get their hopes up.
Trading for Cardinals’ DeAndre Hopkins will continue to be a pipe dream, yet there are still a handful of intriguing (and cheaper) names the Ravens could target in free agency: Allen Lazard, Jakobi Meyers, and Juju Smith-Schuster, to name a few.
Apart from player acquisitions, one thing to keep an eye on is who the Ravens end up hiring as their offensive coordinator.
As the Ravens conduct a thorough search for Roman’s replacement, it seems as though the team is targeting play-callers who have experience in designing passing attacks. The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec wrote:
"“Early reports of Ravens offensive coordinator candidates, however, seem to suggest that Harbaugh is very aware of the importance of fixing the passing game. All four have coordinated an NFL passing game or a college or pro offense. All four have been or still are wide receivers coaches in their careers.”"
If fans were looking for a real-world action proving that the Ravens are committed to upgrading the wide receiver unit and revamping the passing game, this is certainly a start.
Assuming Jackson stays, Baltimore likely won’t stray too far from its current run-first offensive scheme, and Jackson’s unrivaled chemistry with Mark Andrews remains arguably the most important building block and most reliable link within the passing game. But the Ravens need more than just a two-trick pony.