The 2016 season didn't go as Kamar Aiken had hoped, and his first foray into free agency might not have either. But after a quiet market for his services, Aiken has found the opportunity he has been seeking.
The 27-year-old wide receiver has agreed to a one-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts, according to his agent, David Canter. This ends Aiken's three-season stint with the Ravens.
The Ravens are thin on experienced receivers, but there's no evidence that they were aggressively bidding to retain Aiken, a key special teams player who became their top receiver in 2015 but had a disappointing season last year.
He becomes their fifth true unrestricted free agent to head elsewhere, following fullback Kyle Juszczyk (San Francisco 49ers), offensive linemen Rick Wagner (Detroit Lions) and Vladimir Ducasse (Buffalo Bills), and defensive end Lawrence Guy (New England Patriots). They have signed three unrestricted free agents in running back Danny Woodhead and defensive backs Brandon Carr and Tony Jefferson, meaning the team is currently in line to receive two compensatory selections.
Aiken's departure reinforces the Ravens' need for a wide receiver. Their current depth chart behind projected starters Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman includes Michael Campanaro (River Hill), Chris Moore, Chris Matthews, Keenan Reynolds, Vince Mayle and Kenny Bell.
It wasn't too long ago when Aiken was viewed as a significant piece of the Ravens offense. However, his numbers dipped significantly in 2016, as did his opportunities. The healthy returns of Steve Smith Sr., Perriman and tight end Dennis Pitta, plus the acquisition of Wallace, made Aiken almost an afterthought on offense.
He was fifth on the team with 50 targets and eighth with 29 receptions for 328 yards and one touchdown. He was on the field for only 52.5 percent of the Ravens' offensive snaps. Aiken, who didn't publicly complain about his role during the season but was visibly unhappy, acknowledged the day after the season that it was the most difficult year of his career.
After going undrafted out of Central Florida, Aiken had stints with the Bills, Chicago Bears and Patriots. The Ravens signed him to their practice squad in 2013 and he earned a role on the team's 53-man roster after a strong preseason the following year.
Aiken caught 24 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns in 2014 while becoming one of the Ravens' top special teams players.
The following year, injuries to Smith, Perriman and others resulted in a bigger role for Aiken. He started 14 of 16 games and led the Ravens with 75 receptions for 944 yards and five touchdowns. His emergence was one of the feel-good stories of an otherwise dismal 5-11 season.
After the season, the Ravens put a second-round tender on the restricted free agent, making sure that no other team signed him to an offer sheet. However, Aiken couldn't repeat his 2015 success and seemed to fade from the offensive game plan.
His diminished role made it all but a formality that he would leave in free agency in search of a greater opportunity.