Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken in pursuit of a starting job, shedding former journeyman status

Kamar Aiken had never caught a pass in an NFL regular-season game prior to last year, becoming a fixture on the waiver wire as he was cut six times in his first three seasons.

Aiken emerged as a key contributor to the Ravens' passing game and special teams last season after beating the odds to make the roster.


Now, Aiken is competing for a starting job. At the least, Aiken figures into the Ravens' plans as one of their top wide receivers as well as playing on special teams after blocking a punt last season.

During offseason practices while running with the first-team offense, Aiken has executed a series of acrobatic sideline catches and flashed speed on deep routes for touchdowns.


"I'm more comfortable for a couple reasons," Aiken said. "No. 1, it's pretty much the same offense. So, I didn't have to learn a whole new offense and they just put me in the right spots to make me feel comfortable. Just being around the guys, being here and going through the program again, I'm settling in."

Aiken had a breakthrough season last year with 24 receptions for 267 yards and three touchdowns.

During the final five games, his chemistry with quarterback Joe Flacco was obvious as he caught 11 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns. That included six receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins, the Florida native's hometown team.

"I was always confident," Aiken said. "Last year, it did build, but I was already confident."

Aiken, 26, had previous stints with the Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears and New England Patriots before being signed to the Ravens' practice squad two years ago.

At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds Aiken combines size, speed and sound hands.

Unlike previous offseasons, Aiken is assured of his roster status.

"It's a different approach that you get to take in the offseason as far as how you train,"  said Aiken, who's signed to a $585,000 exclusive-rights tender. "You don't have to really worry about all the little stuff, and you can just really go out there and focus on just playing football and not the business side of it so much. ..


"It makes you a lot better. I feel like just training-wise, you're not thinking and you don't have that in the back of your head where, 'I have to worry about this. I have to worry about that.' It's just more so, 'How can I better my craft?'"

Aiken ranked fourth on the team in receiving yards last season despite only being targeted 32 times.

Aiken could wind up starting opposite five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith, operating as the third wide receiver behind rookie first-round draft pick Breshad Perriman or splitting time with Marlon Brown.

"Whatever they need me to do, I'll just do my job, if that's special teams, if that's being a starter, if that's being the third receiver, second receiver," Aiken said. "Whatever it is, I'm going to do my job the best I can."

A former undrafted free agent from Central Florida who caught 121 passes for 1,924 yards and 17 touchdowns in college, Aiken's emphasis this offseason has been on refining his pass patterns.

"I just want to be a little more fluent route runner," Aiken said. "I want to be a little bit quicker. I feel like I'm explosive now, but I want to get that quickness.


"I didn't really establish myself as a deep-ball route runner last season. I did that my whole college career. I want to be known more for that than intermediate routes."