The NFL offseason heats up on Tuesday when the free agency period begins and the NFL draft will take place next month. In anticipation of those events, blogger and reporter Matt Vensel will look at six key positions the Ravens might address in free agency and the NFL draft in the days leading up to the start of free agency.
The Ravens won their second Lombardi Trophy this winter thanks in large part due to the play of quarterback Joe Flacco, but let’s not forget about the speedy guys who were on the receiving end of all those tight spirals.
Veteran Anquan Boldin led all receivers in the postseason with 22 grabs for 380 yards and four touchdowns. Jacoby Jones scored long, critical touchdowns against the Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers. And Torrey Smith continued to be a vertical threat, averaging 21.2 yards per catch on 11 postseason receptions.
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That group was good enough to win the Super Bowl this year, so there is reason to believe it would be good enough again in 2013, but a tight salary cap situation could prompt changes at the position this spring.
Where they stand: The Ravens have those top three wide receivers under contract right now. They also continued to give youngster Tandon Doss opportunities to make plays down the stretch last season, which says something about how they feel about him. But Boldin carries a cap hit of $7.5 million and the Ravens must give Jones a $1 million roster bonus on March 16 to keep him around, putting their futures in question.
Who’s out there: Teams with salary cap space and a need at wide receiver will have plenty of quality options to choose from. Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace, New England's Wes Welker and Green Bay's Greg Jennings all bring something different to the market, and there are other less-productive but less-expensive receivers available. The NFL draft is also stocked with wide receivers. While no prospects are being projected to crack the top 10 picks, a few, including former Dunbar and West Virginia standout Tavon Austin, could go in the first round, and there are several quality pass-catchers whom teams will covet in the second day of the draft.
Stat that stands out: Two -- drops by Anquan Boldin in 2012, according to Pro Football Focus. After Boldin uncharacteristically allowed nine passes to clank off his paws in 2011, his hands were back to being like vise grips in 2012. His two drops on catchable passes were the fewest among NFL wide receivers who were targeted at least 100 times, according to Pro Football Focus, and his 2.99 percent drop rate led all wide-outs.
What they might do: The Ravens must first figure out what to do with their current corps of receivers. They are expected to pick up Jones’ option, but it’s unclear if they will keep Boldin, who will turn 33 in October. Either way, they aren’t expected to make a play for one of the top wide receivers on the market. They could, however, use one of their early draft picks on a speedy wide receiver if the right one is still on their board.
Check back at the Baltimore Sports Blitz blog Friday for a look at how the Ravens might address their need for a pass rusher.