Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Deonte Thompson may not have made much of an impact as a rookie last season - and yes, he's a former undrafted free agent who had just 21 catches during his senior season at Florida - but the Ravens continue to be complimentary of Thompson and there seems to be a real expectation from the organization for Thompson to challenge for a substantial role on offense heading into this season.
Coach John Harbaugh commended Thompson at the NFL league meetings in March. Owner Steve Biscotti told the Ravens' team website at the league meetings that Thompson is a player Baltimore's coaches are "thrilled with." Baltimore assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, during a conversation with the Baltimore Sun last month, described Thompson as a player who "isn't a heralded name, but a guy we think is going to be a good player." And following an organized team activity practice last week, offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell was further complimentary of Thompson.
The thing that stands out the most about the 6-foot, 203-pound Thompson is his speed. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds at Florida's Pro Day last March and he may be the fastest player on the Ravens' roster. But Caldwell praised other areas of Thompson's game, too.
"He's one of those guys ... he's a gifted route-runner, and he is getting better," Caldwell said. "He's young, and he's developing. [Wide receivers coach] Jim Hostler is working with him and certainly getting him refined in all aspects of the game, [but] he understands how to sink his hips. He can do a great job of changing direction. He has speed, can catch the ball and he's tough. I think that's a pretty good blend." He's a young guy, so we will see. If he keeps improving the way he's going, I think he will be a fine player."
Torrey Smith is locked in as a starter at one wide receiver spot for the Ravens, but Thompson is one of several players competing for playing time at Baltimore's other two top receiving spots.
How Thompson fares during training camp and the preseason this summer will go a long way in determining just how much of a role he ends up playing, but he's a player who consistently stood out during training camp last year, and did during the preseason as well.
He had 10 catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns during last year's preseason, including six catches for 68 yards and a touchdown during the Ravens' final preseason game.
He started the regular season as Baltimore's kick returner, but a lost fumble during the fifth game of the year played a role in him being replaced by Jacoby Jones.
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He was only active for one game the rest of the season, although the one game he was active for - the Ravens' regular season finale - he caught four passes for 26 yards.
"He's a young guy, so we will see," Caldwell said. "If he keeps improving the way he's going, I think he will be a fine player."
The Ravens signed former University of Buffalo wide receiver Marcus Rivers Tuesday and released rookie quarterback Dayne Crist.
Rivers went undrafted last year. He signed with the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent, but he was cut by the Packers last June.
Rivers is 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, but he never had more than 690 yards during any single season in college.
He did catch 60 passes as a senior, though, and was a second-team All-MAC selection.