The ink hadn’t even dried on Michael Crabtree’s three-year contract with the Ravens when their fans had already moved on to the next item on their wide receiver wish list: Mike Wallace.
In two seasons with the Ravens, Wallace caught 124 passes for 1,765 yards and eight touchdown receptions while playing 31 of 32 games. He flashed big-play ability, played through injuries and exhibited leadership qualities in mentoring younger teammates.
It’s easy to see why general manager Ozzie Newsome acknowledged having ongoing talks with Wallace’s agent this offseason and why so many people want the veteran to return and be part of a revamped receiving corps. On paper, re-signing Wallace would strengthen a receiving group that should also be bolstered by the addition of Crabtree, John Brown and one or two high- or mid-round draft picks come April. But from a bigger-picture standpoint, it’s fair to ask whether it would be the best move for both Wallace and the Ravens.
This isn’t a knock on Wallace at all. He proved to be a strong free-agent signing for the Ravens and is one of the most popular guys in that locker room. It’s surprising he’s still available and there’s been so little buzz about him on a market where secondary receivers are making north of $6 million a year. I’m just not sure that he’s the best fit for the Ravens this year.
At some point, the Ravens need to start grooming a young receiving corps and stop applying veteran bandages at the position every year. At some point, the Ravens need to start taking more chances at drafting receivers even though their history in doing that is uninspiring. At some point, the Ravens need to see whether young wideouts such as Chris Moore, Tim White and Quincy Adeboyejo can be quality NFL players. And at some point, the Ravens need to use some of the small remaining cap space that they do have to upgrade a position other than wide receiver.
Brown signed a one-year deal with the team. Crabtree’s deal was for three years, but it essentially boils down to a one-year, $8 million commitment because his cap number is over $9 million next year and he has a $2 million roster bonus if he’s still on the team by the fifth day of the 2019 league year. 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman, who is hardly a lock to make the Ravens’ regular-season roster, is heading into the final year of his rookie contract.
If Wallace was signed, he’d almost certainly join Brown and Crabtree on short-term deals, meaning the Ravens would again next offseason be looking at having to revamp their entire receiving group. That is not ideal. What also wouldn’t be ideal is the Ravens not getting an extended opportunity to play or evaluate young receivers with Crabtree, Brown and Wallace entrenched as the top three.
Would Wallace, a fiery and outspoken player, be content and productive in a role where he was playing far fewer than 66 percent of the team’s offensive snaps the way he was last year? Would the Ravens de-emphasize taking a receiver in the early rounds of the draft because they restocked the position with three veteran free agents? Are Wallace and Brown too similar in their styles?
Those are all fair questions. After a season in which the team didn’t have enough receiving options, it seems foolish to eschew an opportunity to grab a quality receiver like Wallace who already has a rapport with Joe Flacco.
However, it’s not foolish to look toward the future at the position rather than obsessing over the present.