The Ravens waited until the last possible day to execute an offer sheet for New Orleans Saints restricted-free-agent wide receiver Willie Snead. By holding off on a deal until Friday's deadline for restricted free agents to sign contract tenders, the Ravens bought themselves some time to explore other receiving options and left the Saints in a precarious position.
Maybe the Saints wouldn't have matched the Ravens' two-year, $7 million deal, with an additional $3.4 million in incentives, for Snead anyway. But their eventual separation became a mere formality after New Orleans signed Chicago Bears restricted free agent Cameron Meredith to a two-year, $9.6 million deal and re-signed Brandon Coleman, adding to a deep receiving corps and leaving the Saints with just over $6 million in salary cap space.
The Saints' expected response came Monday, when they informed Snead that they would not be matching the offer, according to an industry source. He'll now join the Ravens, with New Orleans getting no compensation in return.
The Saints had five days to make a decision, so it's possible the Ravens' deal with Snead won't become official until the five-day window closes Wednesday. Snead, who was due to play the season under his $1.9 million original-round contract tender, had been participating in the Saints' offseason workout program. However, he'll be free to join the Ravens' program later this week.
He said goodbye to his former team on his Twitter account Monday, writing, "Even though I am sad to go, I'm even more excited for the next chapter of my life. I can't wait to strap it on as a Baltimore Raven and give everything that I have for my new team."
Snead, 25, is the Ravens' third veteran wide receiver addition this offseason, joining Michael Crabtree and John Brown in a revamped receiving group. His addition doesn't take the Ravens out of the market for a wide receiver in this week's NFL draft, but it certainly makes the position less of a priority.
Snead is coming off a season in which he caught just eight balls for 92 yards in 11 games (seven starts). He was suspended by the NFL for the first three games for violating the league's personal-conduct policy after being charged in June with driving while intoxicated. He returned to the lineup but was slowed by a hamstring injury.
Baltimore Ravens Insider
The Ravens are obviously banking on Snead's return to his 2015 and 2016 form, when he emerged as one of Drew Brees' favorite targets. In 30 games over those two seasons, Snead had 141 catches for 1,879 yards and seven touchdowns. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound receiver averaged over 13 yards per reception.
Snead's ability to win matchups inside was attractive to the Ravens. They worked out him and unrestricted free agent Michael Floyd last month and had then-free-agent quarterback Robert Griffin III throwing to them. The Ravens eventually signed Griffin to back up starter Joe Flacco.
Snead adds diversity to the Ravens' receiving corps, which had lacked a proven option in the slot. Depending on what they do in the draft, the Ravens now can use Crabtree and Brown outside and Snead in the slot. Brown would be the deep threat. Crabtree could work in the intermediate areas and be the big third-down and red-zone target. Snead would add speed and shiftiness inside. Chris Moore, Breshad Perriman, Tim White and Quincy Adeboyejo would then compete for roles behind the top three.
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, who traditionally hasn't been active on the restricted-free-agent market, continues to make good on his vow to change the look of his wide receiver room after the group struggled mightily last year. Newsome released veteran Jeremy Maclin in March and let Mike Wallace (Philadelphia Eagles) and Michael Campanaro (Tennessee Titans) leave in free agency. Tight end Benjamin Watson, another of Flacco's favorite targets last season, also departed in free agency, signing with the Saints.
The Ravens have explored myriad receiving options this offseason, including former Dallas Cowboy Dez Bryant, but with Snead now on board, it appears their great veteran free-agent wide receiver search is now over. The Ravens, though, are still looking to add a field-stretching tight end.