The Ravens had wide receivers John Brown and Ryan Grant in Baltimore on Thursday to take physicals and finalize free-agent deals that were agreed to earlier in the week. By day’s end, Grant’s stint with the Ravens was likely over and a new receiver target had emerged.
Grant, who was set to sign a four-year, $29 million deal with the team, failed his physical, according to sources familiar with the situation. That nullified the contract and put him back on the free-agent market. With him now not expected to join the team, the Ravens’ quest to improve their receiving corps is focused on veteran Michael Crabtree, who was released earlier in the day by the Oakland Raiders.
Let go after the Raiders added another Ravens target, Jordy Nelson, earlier in the day, Crabtree is expected to be at the Under Armour Performance Center on Friday to meet with team officials who will make their free-agent pitch. Crabtree, 30, is coming off his least productive season since 2013. But with 51 career touchdowns, 25 of them in the past three seasons, he’s a proven and productive red-zone target and he’d bring some fire and physicality to an offense that needs both qualities. Crabtree’s market is not immediately clear, but the Ravens will get their first shot at him and the organization has a strong history of closing deals once free agents get into the building.
The Ravens certainly know Crabtree well with coach John Harbaugh’s brother, Jim, having coached the mercurial wide receiver in San Francisco. As a member of the 49ers, Crabtree was the intended receiver on Colin Kaepernick’s fourth-and-goal pass in Super Bowl XLVII that fell incomplete, allowing the Ravens moments later to celebrate their second championship. Since joining the Raiders in 2015 after a six-year run with the 49ers, Crabtree has terrorized the Ravens, catching five touchdown passes in three games.
Crabtree caught 58 balls for 618 yards and eight touchdown receptions in 14 games for the Raiders last year. He missed one game while serving a suspension for his fight with longtime nemesis and then Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib.
With the deals some of the top receivers are getting on the open market this week, Crabtree likely won’t come cheap. The Ravens also don’t have much salary cap space even after restructuring defensive tackle Brandon Williams’ five-year, $54 million contract for the second time in a year.
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome is scheduled to speak to reporters at a news conference this morning and Brown, who agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal with the team, is also expected to be introduced after he passed his physical Thursday, making his contract official.
In a twist, Brown, who has sickle cell trait and has missed eight games over the past three seasons, was supposed to be the health risk. Grant had never missed a game in his four seasons with the Washington Redskins.
The 27-year-old receiver failed his Ravens physical because of an ankle injury suffered in the Redskins’ 2017 season finale, according to ESPN.
Contract agreements are contingent on players passing team-issued physicals. The Ravens sent out a news release Wednesday afternoon not long after the free agency period started that said: “The Baltimore Ravens have agreed in principle, pending the passing of physicals, to contracts with wide receiver John Brown and wide receiver Ryan Grant, general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome announced Wednesday.”
Traditionally, the Ravens would host a news conference with their free-agent additions after they passed their physicals and signed their contracts, but that never occurred Thursday.
The Ravens’ downtown baseball-playing neighbors, the Orioles, have a well-earned reputation for being sticklers with player physicals. However, this is not the first time the Ravens backed out of a free-agent deal because of medical concerns. In 1997, they agreed to terms with defensive back Brock Marion, but X-rays taken during his physical spurred questions about the health of his shoulder. Marion re-signed with the Dallas Cowboys instead and wound up playing eight more seasons, missing just one game during that span.
The team’s decision with Grant will surely be scrutinized around the league, partly because it came on the same day when Crabtree, the type of possession receiver the Ravens have lacked, became available. It’s been well-documented, though, that the Ravens are in the midst of an offseason overhaul at the wide-receiver position as they already cut Jeremy Maclin and they allowed both Mike Wallace and Michael Campanaro (River Hill) to hit free agency. Even after agreeing to the framework of deals with Brown and Grant, they had expressed interest in Nelson and were hoping to bring him in for a free-agent visit.
Before the Brown agreement, the Ravens receiving corps consisted of Chris Moore, Breshad Perriman, DeVier Posey, Tim White and Quincy Adeboyejo. Posey, who was signed earlier this offseason out of the Canadian Football League, hasn’t caught a pass in an NFL game since 2014, and White and Adeboyejo don’t have a reception in an NFL regular-season game.
This development also comes after the team’s top decision makers were criticized for the level of financial commitment they made to Grant. The four-year, $29 million deal, which included $14.5 million in guaranteed money, was the second biggest contract they’ve ever given to a wide receiver. In four seasons in Washington, the 27-year-old had 84 catches for 985 yards and six touchdown receptions.
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There was some hope earlier Thursday that the deal could potentially be revived on a smaller scale, but that seemed unlikely as the day wore on. Grant’s agent, Rocky Arceneaux, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.