The Baltimore Ravens announced the signing of former Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree to a three-year deal. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said Friday morning that he would have had interest in wide receiver Michael Crabtree regardless of whether Ryan Grant passed his physical or not. What he didn’t say, but what should be quite obvious, is with Grant’s deal falling apart because of concerns over his ankle, the sense of urgency to find another receiver ratcheted up.
Newsome and the Ravens front office responded quickly to the Grant fallout, signing Crabtree to a three-year deal Friday after the veteran receiver spent part of the day at the Under Armour Performance Center meeting with team officials. As Crabtree waited at a nearby hotel, his agent hammered out a three-year, $21 million contract for the wide receiver who had been released just 24 hours earlier by the Oakland Raiders.
Crabtree, 30, returned to the Ravens’ facility around 6 p.m. to sign the contract.
“As soon as I got released, the first call was the Ravens and I was on the first flight to the Ravens,” Crabtree said on a conference call as he hustled to catch a flight to return to Texas. “It just happened. I’ve been up since 7 o’clock trying to get this done and we got it done.”
The signing is the Ravens’ boldest move yet in their offseason overhaul of their receiving corps that took an unexpected turn when Grant didn’t pass a physical with the team Thursday, nullifying a four-year, $29 million deal. John Brown, a former Arizona Cardinal, did pass and finalized his one-year, $5 million deal before a Friday morning news conference.
“I started talking to them as soon as free agency started,” Brown said. “I knew they were really serious about me, because they kept calling. … I’m just really excited to be here. I felt like this was the best fit for me.”
The Ravens backing out of the Grant deal has raised suspicions around the league because the former Washington Redskin hasn’t missed a game in four NFL seasons. Back on the free-agent market, Grant reportedly spent Thursday meeting with the Indianapolis Colts. The financial commitment the Ravens had made to Grant ($14.5 million guaranteed, $3.5 million more than Crabtree got) was widely panned given his modest career numbers, and him failing his physical prompted questions about whether the Ravens had buyer’s remorse.
“With some consultations between our doctors, and other doctors around the country — just to make sure — they came back that he did not pass our physical,” Newsome said of Grant. “To me, that’s not a football decision. That’s a medical decision that I have no control over.”
The Ravens had already been looking for a proven veteran receiver even with the expectation that both Brown and Grant would be on their roster. Having cut Jeremy Maclin and with both Mike Wallace and Michael Campanaro (River Hill) hitting free agency — Newsome said he hasn’t closed the door on either — the Ravens’ receiving group lacked an accomplished go-to target. Then, Crabtree was released Thursday afternoon after Oakland’s acquisition of Jordy Nelson.
“Michael has played very well against the Ravens, so we know firsthand the attributes he brings to the game,” Newsome said in a statement released by the team. “He is a smart, tough, physical receiver who battles for the ball. We like his temperament and believe he is a good fit for our football team, on and off the field.”
The latest on a growing list of receivers the organization has signed in the latter stages of their career, Crabtree immediately becomes quarterback Joe Flacco’s top receiving threat. A nine-year pro, Crabtree is coming off his least productive season since his injury-shortened 2013. He had only 58 catches for 618 yards and eight touchdown receptions in 14 games. However, he’s had 25 touchdown receptions over the past three years and has a well-earned reputation as a clutch performer on both third downs and in the red zone.
After spending his first six seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and the past three with the Raiders, Crabtree has 579 career receptions for 6,870 yards and 51 touchdown catches. He currently ranks 10th among active NFL players in receptions, 16th in touchdown catches and 17th in receiving yards.
“I feel like age don’t really determine that drive that you have,” Crabtree said. “I feel like I always have something to prove. Coming off the year I had with the Raiders and the year the Ravens had at receiver last year, there’s just a lot to prove at the position. I’m sure the rest of the guys are ready to go just like me.”
Crabtree said he grew up as a Ravens’ fan because he admired how they played “hard-nosed defense.” He played safety growing up and mimicked former Raven Ed Reed. His more recent memories of the team, though, weren’t fond ones. As a member of the 49ers, he was the intended receiver on quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s fourth-and-goal incomplete pass that culminated the Ravens’ late goal-line stand in their Super Bowl XLVII victory over the 49ers.
“It feels a little different, but I feel like I’m at home,” he said. “The Super Bowl left me with a lot of memories, mostly bad memories. It was a battle out there and the best team won. I’m excited to put this purple on.”
The Ravens virtually had to stumble into this possible deal.
By Mike Preston
Mar 16, 2018 | 9:35 AM
Crabtree has plenty of connections with his new team. Ravens assistant head coach and tight ends coach Greg Roman was the offensive coordinator for part of his time in San Francisco and Ravens wide receivers coach Bobby Engram was an assistant with the 49ers in 2011. Ravens coach John Harbaugh’s brother, Jim, was Crabtree’s head coach in San Francisco for four years.
“Jim and John, they’re like the same to me,” Crabtree said. “When I talk to them, it’s like I’m talking to the same person. It’s almost as if they were twins or something. It’s weird, but it’s a new team for me, new journey.”
Heading into his 10th NFL season, Crabtree said he’s comfortable leading a wide receivers group that currently includes Brown, Chris Moore, Breshad Perriman, DeVier Posey, Quincy Adeboyejo and Tim White. Newsome, who has been criticized for not spending enough assets on offensive skill position players, also made clear earlier in the day that he is not done in trying to get help for Flacco. He said the Ravens have enough salary cap space to add two or three more quality players.