Ryan Mink The Ravens' quest to upgrade at wide receiver will be a major focus this offseason.
After a year in which Baltimore's wide receivers scored just seven touchdowns in 17 games, there are likely to be major changes at the position. Season-ending injuries to Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay left Baltimore even thinner, but even with those two expected to return healthy, there is a clear need for more depth and talent at wideout.
"It's certainly something we're going to look at," General Manager Eric DeCosta said. "Obviously, this season didn't end up the way we wanted it to. We had some injuries, obviously, with 'Bate' and with Devin. We traded 'Hollywood' [Marquise Brown] last year, so we definitely took on some water this year at that position.
"We'll continue to look at that via free agency and the draft. Our role is really to just find the best guys that fit our situation. We hear the fans; we hear you guys with the questions, certainly. We'll do that this offseason, and that'll be through the draft, through free agency, potential trades and things like that, but we will build the best team we can to compete every single week."
The Ravens' final touchdown of the season came on a 41-yard connection from Tyler Huntley to Demarcus Robinson in the playoff loss to the Bengals. But explosive plays like that from wide receivers were few and far between for the Ravens. Duvernay led Baltimore's wideouts with three touchdowns catches, while Robinson led the wideouts in receiving yards with 458.
The injury to Bateman (foot) in Week 4was a major blow that erased Baltimore's top deep threat, a speedster who stretched the field and created more room for other targets. Once Duvernay (foot) went on injured reserve on Dec. 20, opponents had even less reason to respect the Ravens' ability to get consistent production from their wideouts.
Veteran Sammy Watkins, who was signed on Dec. 20, and Robinson became Baltimore's top two receivers heading into the playoffs, as James Proche and Tylan Wallace never developed into reliable targets. Bateman and Duvernay are the only wideouts with clearly defined roles for next season. Robinson and Watkins are free agents, while Proche and Wallace will have to prove they can be contributors.
It will be interesting to see how much the Ravens' passing game changes once they decide on a new offensive coordinator to replace Greg Roman. The Ravens ranked 29th in the NFL in passing yards per game (178.8), even with a Pro Bowl tight end in Mark Andrews. Losing Lamar Jackson for the final six games including the playoffs hurt the offense in many ways. But even if the Ravens remain one of the league's top rushing teams, their offense needs more quick-strike capability and far more consistency in the red zone.
The Ravens have a top-flight offensive line, a strong tight end group, and a potentially lethal running back combination in J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. However, the wide receiver position needs to be addressed. If that piece of the puzzle is completed, Head Coach John Harbaugh will be even more optimistic about where the offense is headed.
"That offensive line is going to be wholly intact or almost wholly intact next year coming back - that's big," Harbaugh said. "That tight end room should be wholly intact, completely intact [and] back again. The running back room - intact.
"The one area that needs to be built is the wide receiver room, so that will be a new room, basically. There will be pieces of it still there - you know the guys - and then we'll be adding a lot of pieces to that room, and there [will] be competition, too. That'll be the room that will start together in this new offense, and we'll build with those guys. So, I think you're talking about 75% of the offense is intact, and 25% - and it's all in the same room - will be new. The wide receiver room can be built up, and those are pieces we can give Lamar and give him a chance to really thrive."