The need for speed at wideout

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For a second consecutive offseason, expect the Ravens to make significant changes at the wide receiver position. Before the 2010 season, they brought in Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Donte' Stallworth and draft pick David Reed and jettisoned Mark Clayton, Demetrius Williams and Kelley Washington. Despite the upgrades at wideout, the offense failed to live up to expectations.

Houshmandzadeh and Stallworth will likely depart as unrestricted free agents after they took on smaller roles than expected in 2010, and veteran Derrick Mason, who just turned 37, could decide to retire for real this time (he has one year remaining on his current contract, by the way). Right now, the only roster certainties appear to be Boldin and Reed, whom the Ravens are fond of.


(The Ravens recently signed James Hardy, a 2008 second-round pick by the Bills, to a future contract. The 6-foot-5 wideout will have to impress the coaches during the offseason to stick.)

When filling out the position group this offseason, GM Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens must bring in players with wheels, ones who can blow the top off of the opponent's coverage and get the most out of quarterback Joe Flacco's laser, rocket arm. Hopefully, the Ravens feel the need for speed.


Stallworth had that kind of speed, but the Ravens never really put it to use. Coach John Harbaugh said that Stallworth got "behind the eight ball' when he fractured his foot in the preseason. And the Ravens had to feed the ball to Boldin, Mason and Houshmandzadeh to keep them all happy. But it's not like Stallworth is a Pro Bowl talent. He is fast, but other than that, he's pretty nondescript.

So where can the Ravens go to get some wheels?

Looking at a list of potential free agents from Football's Future, a few big names popped out: Vincent Jackson, Santonio Holmes, Sidney Rice and the Moss brothers -- Randy and Santana.

With all that money tied up in Boldin, I doubt the Ravens will ink an expensive wideout such as Jackson or Rice (unless there is no salary cap when the CBA dust clears). I expect Holmes to remain with the Jets and the Ravens to steer clear of Randy Moss. Santana Moss? Maybe.

I'd like to see the Ravens make a play for Green Bay's James Jones, Houston's Jacoby Jones and/or San Diego's Malcom Floyd if they hit the open market. James Jones has become one of Aaron Rodgers' favorite deep threats, and we all remember what the other Jones did against the Ravens back in Week 14. Floyd is 6-foot-5, and can be the tall target this offense sorely lacks.

And then there's Plaxico Burress. "We'd consider him," Harbaugh said Monday. Even if the Ravens were willing to take the character risk, I don't see Burress making major contributions in his first year back, and he probably won't ever be what he was pre-prison. Michael Vick is an anomaly.

As for the draft, I haven't gotten a chance to check out college players too much yet, but Miami's Leonard Hankerson, UNC's Greg Little and, yes, Maryland's Torrey Smith are three players to watch during the pre-draft workouts. I liked Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon a lot -- and he might have been available at pick No. 26 -- but he decided to stay in school. Oh well. Maybe in 2012.

OK, your turn: Give me three wideouts (pro or college) the Ravens should target this offseason.