It was hardly a secret that the Ravens were interested in acquiring a return specialist this offseason. After all, they had Ted Ginn Jr. in for a visit before he re-signed with the San Francisco 49ers and they were reportedly linked to receiver and returner Eddie Royal, who eventually joined the San Diego Chargers.
But at Wednesday’s news conference at the Castle in Owings Mills, head coach John Harbaugh again confirmed that the Ravens feel a dangerous returner is something they wanted to -- and still can -- add.
“We're looking,” he said. “We tried to do something with a free agent or two and it didn't work out, but that's OK. We'll move on to the next opportunity. We've got some guys on campus right now that have a chance to help us and be pretty good. But by the same token, if there is a great one, we're interested."
Of course, the Ravens weren’t going to name the potential returners who are on their draft radar. Trust me; someone asked. Team officials nervously laughed once they realized the reporter was not joking.
"No. Without tipping our hand, no,” director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said. “There are some good ones out there, I will say that. There are some guys that are impactful guys in college, and there are some guys that maybe haven't done a lot of it but have potential. [Lardarius Webb] didn't do a lot of it in college, and he turned out to be a pretty good punt returner for us thus far. There are guys that can do it that don't do it in college, but there are guys that have the traits to do it and there are guys that are exceptional in college, [Chicago’s Devin] Hester. So without telling the names, there are some."
Webb, who agreed to a five-year, $50 million extension with the Ravens on Thursday, was the team’s primary punt returner last season and scored a punt return touchdown, but Harbaugh said he would prefer if he didn’t have to use his top cornerback as a returner. Chris Carr and Tom Zbikowski also returned punts in 2011, but those two are now employed in Minnesota and Indianapolis, respectively.
Zbikowski also returned nine kickoffs, which was second on the team behind David Reed. Reed had a rough 2011 season and tore his ACL in the final month of the season. His status for 2012 is unclear.
The Ravens do have an intriguing option under contract in Phillip Livas, who was on the practice squad last season. Livas, 22, scored eight total return touchdowns in his college days at Louisiana Tech. The 5-foot-7, 179-pound receiver scored a punt return for the Miami Dolphins last preseason.
Since the Ravens obviously aren’t going to name the prospects they are interested in, I’ll name a few in this draft who could contribute in the return game: Alabama's Marquis Maze, Fresno State's Devon Wylie, Arkansas's Joe Adams, Wake Forest's Chris Givens, Florida's Chris Rainey, and Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead. Would the Ravens like to draft one of these guys? We’ll find out in three weeks.
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