Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome didn't make any guarantees Wednesday, but he did acknowledge that the team is hoping to add another receiver before the draft. The question is who is actually available to provide an upgrade.
One such name at or near the top of the best-available list is Eric Decker, the 31-year-old who played last season for the Tennessee Titans after highly-productive seasons with the Denver Broncos and New York Jets.
Still looking for a slot receiver, the Ravens are interested in Decker, although it isn't clear how far along the two sides are in contract talks. Decker reportedly had a free-agent visit with the Oakland Raiders last month and he recently said in an interview with a Denver-based radio station that he was receptive to the idea of returning to the Broncos.
Decker struggled at times with the Titans last season, finishing with 54 catches for 563 yards and one touchdown reception. However, at 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds, he is a big target on third downs and in the red zone, which the Ravens need. Decker has 53 career touchdown catches in 111 games.
The Ravens' recent receiving targets clearly reflect the team's desire to add help in the slot, where they currently lack a more proven option. They recently met with restricted free agent receivers Cameron Meredith of the Chicago Bears and Willie Snead of the New Orleans Saints. Both are best suited for the slot.
The belief is that the Ravens really like Meredith, but it's always difficult to sign another team's restricted free agent and the Bears, who have plenty of cap space available, are in position to match any deal assuming they value the receiver to that extent.
The Ravens also have remained in contact with slot receiver/punt returner Michael Campanaro, who is on a free-agent visit today with the Titans. When healthy, Campanaro has proven capable of making an impact both on offense and in the return game.
Then there'sDecker, who still remains in play.
There's an expectation that the Ravens will draft at least one receiver, but they'd clearly feel better about what they have at the position with a proven slot guy added to the mix.
More on Griffin III
Count me among those who don't quite get the fan uproar with the Ravens' decision to sign quarterback Robert Griffin III and give him an opportunity to back up Joe Flacco. The Ravens made little financial commitment — Griffin's one-year deal is worth $1 million, according to the NFL Network — and they made it clear the signing wouldn't prevent them from adding a quarterback in the draft.
There are no guarantees Griffin will be on the team when the regular season begins. The Ravens haven't kept three quarterbacks on the season-opening roster since 2009, so if they draft a signal caller with an early or mid-round pick, that probably doesn't bode well for Griffin.
At best, Griffin proves he's healthy, recaptures some of his early NFL career form, earns a spot on the roster, provides some good scout team looks and gives the Ravens some confidence they can still win if Flacco goes down. At worse, his struggles continue and the Ravens move on from him before the season, opting to go with a younger backup. There's just not much risk involved to warrant so much hand-wringing.
Moving up or back
Newsome and assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said Wednesday they'd be open to moving up or back from the 16th overall pick. You never know how things will play out, but everything else they said indicates it's far more likely the Ravens will look to trade back in an effort to get another Day Two (rounds 2-3) pick.
DeCosta and Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz talked up the depth of the quarterback and tight end class. Both positions figure to be ones the team targets in that second to fourth-round range. It's well documented that the strength of this wide receiver class is in its depth, not its star power.
The draft also lacks elite offensive linemen. So that begs the question: Unless the Ravens are smitten with a quarterback, what exactly would they be trading up for?
Georgia inside linebacker Roquan Smith and Florida State defensive back Derwin James would be strong additions, but trading a pick or two to move into position to get a defensive player when it's the Ravens' offense that needs most of the help would be a tough sell.
If they can pull it off, the Ravens' best play remains to try and engineer a trade where they'd move back in the low 20s and get another Day Two pick and still be in position to use their first rounder on a receiver like Calvin Ridley or DJ Moore, one of the top tight ends, perhaps a tackle like Mike McGlinchey or maybe even an inside linebacker like Rashaan Evans.
Ten quick thoughts
1) To put Griffin's contract in perspective, there are 49 quarterbacks in the NFL who are currently set to make more than $1 million per year in the upcoming season, according to Spotrac.
2) With that financial commitment, we can bury the already silly notion that the Ravens may have signed Griffin to light a fire under Flacco. What should probably light a fire under Flacco is the fact that both Newsome and coach John Harbaugh have openly talked about the benefits of a quarterback getting together with his receivers in the offseason. It's appropriate to say that the ball is now in Flacco's court.
3) DeCosta is saying all the right things so far about succeeding Newsome in the general manager's role, but you can tell that he's uncomfortable with that line of questioning, especially in Newsome's presence. And that's understandable, given how close the two men are and how long they've worked together.
4) Kudos to Newsome for shouldering the blame in saying that recent poor drafts and player acquisitions have "without a doubt" been behind the team's three straight seasons of missing the playoffs. Obviously, there's plenty of blame to go around and it's not all on Newsome by any stretch, but the number of early or mid-round misses have taken a toll.
5) Another interesting admission Wednesday was DeCosta acknowledging that the organization hasn't taken a whole lot of swings at drafting receivers for a variety of reasons. One reason he mentioned was an inflation of the value of skill position players league-wide. In many cases, teams are drafting these types of players earlier than the Ravens had them on their own board. I'd suspect the team will be much more aggressive this year in targeting certain skill-position players.
Baltimore Ravens Insider
6) With how much top Ravens' executives talked up the draft's running back and tight end depth yesterday, I would be surprised if the team goes in that direction in first round. Second or third round, maybe. But not first.
7) I still think the Ravens' draft blueprint will be to take the best-player available regardless of position in the first round and then to specifically target wide receiver, tight end and either quarterback or running back in rounds two through four. Their history of finding and developing mid-round offensive linemen, along with a relatively weak offensive tackle class, tells me they'll hold off on addressing that area if they don't get a McGlinchey or a Connor Williams in the first round.
8) Given the Ravens' signing of Griffin and the fact that most teams already have two veteran quarterbacks, if not three, on their roster, it's fair to wonder whether Ryan Mallett will be able to find a job in 2018.
9) An incomplete list of other former Ravens still on the free-agent market: Terrance West, Campanaro, Jeremy Maclin, Crockett Gillmore, Austin Howard, Steven Johnson, Lardarius Webb, Brandon Boykin, Cedric Peerman, Kamar Aiken, Jeremy Butler, Tony Bergstrom, Billy Turner, Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, Chris Carter, Dannell Ellerbe, Sheldon Price, Asa Jackson and Corey Graham.
10) Newsome hates going into the draft with obvious holes. It's unavoidable in some cases, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if the team still had a few free-agent signings before the draft. They might not be overly significant, but there are positions where the Ravens still need some depth and some insurance in case they can't find an immediate upgrade in the draft.