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Ravens cut Michael Crabtree, setting stage for another overhaul of receiving corps

The Ravens have released wide receiver Michael Crabtree after just one season, the team announced Monday.

Crabtree was the centerpiece of the Ravens’ overhauled receiving corps last offseason but struggled with drops early and production late. He finished with 54 catches for 607 yards and three touchdowns in his lone season in Baltimore — but just 13 catches for 135 yards and a touchdown in seven games with Lamar Jackson as starting quarterback.

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Crabtree blamed himself for the Ravens' overtime 12-9 loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 5. He dropped three passes, including the possible game-winner on a well-thrown pass to the back of the end zone by quarterback Joe Flacco late in regulation.

“It started off slow, and I put that on me,” Crabtree, who finished with the most drops in the NFL, said after the game. “I had the game-winner and should have caught that one. I have got to finish it. I’ve been there and done that before.”

The Ravens signed Crabtree, 31, to a three-year, $21 million contract in March after he was released by the Oakland Raiders. He was due $7 million in 2019. With his release, the Ravens free up nearly $4.7 million in cap savings but also incur the same amount in dead money.

Crabtree’s 2018 was perhaps the worst of a solid career that has declined in recent years. He had a career low in receiving yards per game (37.9). He finished with fewer catches in a season just twice: in his rookie season and in an injury-shortened 2013. His 54.0 percent catch rate was the worst of his 10-year career. After a combined 1,925 receiving yards in 2015 and 2016 in Oakland, Crabtree had just 1,225 over the past two seasons.

One of only two two-time winners of the Biletnikoff Award, given to college football's top wide receiver, Crabtree has 633 receptions for 7,477 yards in his NFL career. The former first-round pick from Texas Tech started his career in San Francisco, playing six seasons for the 49ers.

Crabtree, who was reluctant to speak to the media throughout the season, tweeted, “We good! Let’s get it!” after news of his release spread.

With wide receiver prospects linked to the Ravens’ No. 22 pick in the draft and John Brown’s future uncertain, the team’s passing game could be drastically remade during Jackson’s first offseason as starting quarterback.

If pending free agents Brown (715 receiving yards) and tight end Nick Boyle (213) are not re-signed, the Ravens would return just two of their top five receivers from last year: slot receiver Willie Snead IV (651) and tight end Mark Andrews (552). In 2016, the Ravens retained none of their top three receivers, prompting signings of Crabtree, Brown and Snead.

ESPN first reported Crabtree’s release, which could be the first of a series of cuts. While the Ravens already have agreed to trade Joe Flacco to the Denver Broncos, they could also part ways with cornerback Jimmy Smith and safety Eric Weddle, who are due $9.5 million and $7.5 million, respectively, next season.

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