The Baltimore Ravens finished the 2020 season with a number of clear needs. Perhaps the most important is at wide receiver. The Ravens passing attack took a step back in 2020 and they need to add more weapons for their former-MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman saw his offense become very stale throughout the year as the Ravens finished with the least passing yards in the league. Finding high-impact wide receivers has been an elusive task for the Ravens since they moved to Baltimore in 1996. Over their 25 year history, the Ravens have only had 12 receivers record a 1,000+ yard season. Two of those players were Michael Jackson and Derrick Alexander in Baltimore’s inaugural season. Ravens receivers have also only had three 1,000+ yard seasons in the past 10 years. This article will break down some Baltimore Ravens free agent wide receiver targets for this off-season.
Baltimore Ravens Free Agent Wide Receiver Targets for 2021 off-Season
Ozzie Newsome has been known more for luring in veteran receivers in free agency than drafting and developing them out of college. Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin are debatably the two best receivers in Ravens history and both were free agent acquisitions after their 30th birthdays. Both Mason and Boldin are currently top-30 in career receiving yards in NFL history.
Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta has a number of large tasks during the 2021 off-season but finding Jackson a number-one receiver is high on his list. Jackson has proved to be one of the most efficient passers in the NFL over his three-year career and he needs another big-time weapon to take his play to the next level. These are five free-agent wide receivers that DeCosta and the Ravens should be targeting in 2021.
Zach Pascal is further down the board because as a free agent, he comes with some risk. He is the kind of player that if he were to find a pass-happy team, could elevate his game to a new level. However, Pascal would likely need his targets to increase. His ability to find space over the middle of the field and around the sideline would make him a great compliment to Marquise Brown. Pascal won’t create a ton of yards after the catch but he is a bigger receiver at 6’2″ and has the ability to find space in the intermediate pass game. His receptions, receiving yards, snaps, catch percentage, and passer rating when targeted have increased every year he has been in the NFL.
The reason Pascal is not a great fit for the Ravens current offense is that he likely wouldn’t see an increased target share in Baltimore. With the Indianapolis Colts he saw a target share of 12.9 percent and five receivers had 47 targets or more in 2020. Pascal finished the year with 71 targets. Only three Ravens had 47 targets or more last season. Willie Snead, who had 48 targets (11.8 percent) last season is set to become a free agent but primarily manned the slot. Devin Duvernay, a 2020 third-round pick, already looks primed to take his spot. Pascal would likely be an upgrade on most of the receivers in Baltimore but is not the dominant presence the Ravens need.
Kenny Golladay may be the most prized player on the free agent market this coming March. He put up back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2018 and 2019 and won’t be 28 years old until this coming November. The 2020 season was Golladay’s third straight averaging more than 67.0 yards per game, a pace of over 1,000 yards in a 16 game season. The only thing holding him back last season was an early hamstring and a midseason hop injury that limited him to just five games. Golladay has a great blend of size and route-running that make him an easy fit for any team.
There’s a good chance that the Detroit Lions put the franchise tag on Golladay making it unlikely that he ever sees the open market. Being stuck under the franchise tag does not guarantee he will play for Detroit in 2021 but the Lions would command a large package in return for the former Pro Bowl receiver. Golladay would be worth a minimum of a first-round pick and the Ravens have never traded a first-round pick for a position player. While the fit between Golladay and the Ravens would work out, Baltimore would only have a shot at Golladay if he were to hit the open market first.
The Ravens have seen a lot of A.J. Green over the past decade. He has the most receiving yards and touchdowns in a single game against the Ravens in franchise history as well as the second-most combined receiving yards (886) against the Ravens over the past 10 years. His rare blend of size, athleticism, and shiftiness has made him one of the best receivers in the league since being drafted in 2011. Green is no longer the dominant presence he once was, but he offers value as a veteran leader who can still create matchup problems if he bounces back.
However, there is a lot of buyer beware with Green. He has a long injury history and is coming off of the least productive season of his career. Green set career lows in yards per target, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns despite playing in all of the Cincinnati Bengals 16 games in 2020. The mix of Green’s down year and his age likely make him a very affordable option for any team in need of a complimentary veteran. The Ravens have had a history of bringing in 30+-year-old receivers and Green may be attracted to the idea of staying in the division of his former team. Signing Green after the numbers he put up in 2020 is a big risk but the return could be very worth it if he is able to have a vintage season in 2021.
Marvin Jones may be the likeliest free agent wide receiver signing for the Ravens this off-season. Jones won’t demand top-end free agent money because he is over the age of 30 but he has been a very consistent performer in the Lions offense since he signed with Detroit five years ago. Over those five seasons, he has averaged 57.8 receptions, 859.2 receiving yards, and 7.2 touchdowns per season. They aren’t eye-popping numbers but they are appropriate and above average for a receiver in his position, which is a second-option receiver on an average passing offense. Jones has good size at 6’2″ and he is a very safe intermediate option with the ability to lay out for the right pass. He also offers value as a red zone target.
The Ravens can easily afford to pay Jones. He likely will not command number one receiver money and will probably take a shorter deal due to his age. Spotrac currently has Jones’ projected value at an average annual value of $10.5 million. Golden Tate, a former Lions teammate of Jones, received a four-year deal in 2019 with an average annual value of $9.735 million after putting up similar numbers in Detroit. Jones might not be the game-breaking number one receiver Jackson needs to take his passing game to astronomical levels but his price tag is right in the Ravens wheelhouse. He would be a great fit in the Ravens offense.
While Allen Robinson might be the dream option for the Ravens, there is no better time for DeCosta to attack the free agent receiver market than right now. The Ravens general manager has failed to provide Jackson with a difference-making wide receiver and Robinson has proven he can be dominant, no matter who is throwing him the ball. Jackson’s passer rating in each of the past two seasons was higher than any single season either Blake Bortles or Mitch Trubisky have had in their entire careers. Robinson has an incredible catch radius, a safe pair of hands, underrated elusiveness after the catch, route-running ability, and is not scared to be physical at the catch point. He was one of just seven players with 100+ receptions and 1,000+ receiving yards in 2020.
If DeCosta wants to add an elite-receiver like Robinson, he is going to have to get uncomfortable and break the bank. The Ravens historically do shell out loads of cash for free agents but Robinson is going to demand a type of contract that will likely make him a top-five paid receiver in the NFL. Only four wide receivers currently have an average annual value of $20 million or more and Robinson will likely be the fifth by the beginning of the 2021 season. However, he would be well worth the money to Jackson and the Ravens offense. Mixing Jackson’s ability to run with two strong intermediate options in Robinson and Mark Andrews, and a blossoming deep threat in Marquise Brown could make the Ravens the best overall offense in the NFL in 2021. If Marvin Jones is the safe option, Allen Robinson is the home run.
Ravens fans will be waiting to see what moves Baltimore makes this off-season and if adding a wide receiver is one such move.