Playmakers needed on Baltimore Ravens offense


The NFL has shifted its focus a bit as free agency has taken a back seat to the recent meetings in Phoenix. The highlights thus far have been the potential of a Los Angeles franchise, Andy Reid’s floral shirt in the coaches’ photo and Jim Irsay’s drunk proposal of a nine-point touchdown.

It is also a time when coaches are available for questioning, and of course, John Harbaugh was asked about his offense.

The Baltimore Ravens have made their fair share of moves this offseason, but getting a playmaker for Joe Flacco still has not been one of them.

They have re-signed Justin Forsett, the biggest offseason asset. That comes as a blessing in disguise with the departure of Bernard Pierce because of his DUI. The signing of Kendrick Lewis and the return of the much-maligned cornerbacks of last season will be an upgrade to the secondary. 

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The problem is they have not gotten any better on offense. In fact, they have gotten worse. I have previously written that the Ravens need help in the passing game, but honestly, I thought that some kind of move would have been made at this point.

Regardless of what you thought of Torrey Smith, he is better than the rest of the guys on the roster outside Steve Smith. Owen Daniels is gone and Dennis Pitta needs to be considered an afterthought. The Ravens have lost a lot of key pieces on offense and the fact that they have yet to make any move is kind of surprising.

I understand the Ravens theory. You let a guy walk and receive a compensatory pick when he signs with another team. Basically for every player lost in free agency, you are given the opportunity to bring someone back in return through the draft.

The Ravens will have 10 selections in the 2015 NFL Draft, and will earn more next season with the losses of Daniels and Torrey. The hope is to draft a player with skill, but a much lower salary. It is considered a bargain when teams find players in those lower rounds. Much of the Seattle Seahawks recent success is attributed to Russell Wilson small cap hit.

In most seasons for the Ravens, it’s a terrific strategy to go with. The more depth the merrier. This is not one of those years.

Flacco needs someone now. It does not have to be a player who is an impact player for years to come. Just someone other than Steve Smith to make an effect on offense this season. Michael Campanaro and Kamar Aiken, the remaining receiving options on the roster, are the next men up. Both were used sparingly in 2014, and Harbaugh acknowledged that both will be given an opportunity.  

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“They’re going to have to handle more. That’s going to be their job,” Harbaugh said. “They’re excited about it. They want to handle more. They’re going to have their opportunity to prove it.”

Am I the only one thinks he isn’t convinced either? He knows those guys can’t replace Torrey. They are certainly capable of filling their roles, but neither is worthy of being a starter.

The problem is the market is getting smaller and smaller by the day. Michael Crabtree, Brandon Lloyd and Hakeem Nicks are just a few names the Ravens could consider at wide receiver. Jermaine Gresham is the top tight end available. These are all options that can be signed to low-risk offers, but can come with high rewards. The Ravens continue to keep track of what is available.

“I think there’s still talent in both of those pools that we could add, if it works,” Harbaugh said.

There is the draft, of course, but the hope to find someone immediately is far-fetched. While last year’s draft class was a terrific one, I feel only two receivers should come out the first round of this draft. It has been rare that receivers drafted in the first round have an instant impact. Let’s not forget that most people in the NFL believe a receiver’s third year is when they finally make that leap.

Some have argued that the last two Super Bowl champions, the Seahawks and New England Patriots, are known for not having big names in their receiving corps. Ozzie Newsome could certainly be mirroring their approach. The difference is those teams have a star outside the quarterback that draws attention. Teams game plan for Marshawn Lynch and Rob Gronkowski.

Flacco is in the height of his career and his top-two playmakers will be in their thirties. Steve Smith is a good receiver, but his days as a serious threat are over. Forsett is not the long-term answer at the running back position. The tight end position might be the weakest unit of the entire team. They simply don’t have that playmaker player on offense.

“I think there’s still talent in both of those pools that we could add, if it works,” Harbaugh said.

The free agents named above are not going to suddenly become that either. They may have once been considered elite options, but those days are numbered. They won’t come in and make a team game plan differently. What they can be is a good secondary receiver to Steve Smith. They can catch passes from one of the best quarterbacks in the game. They can be a part of a team that is always a contender.

Maybe the Ravens shock us all with a draft-day trade. Maybe they get bold and trade up for Amari Cooper or Kevin White. Perhaps they can find themselves a deal similar to what the New York Jets gave up for Brandon Marshall.

That might be the only option available if they do not strike on what is left of a pedestrian group of free agents.

Next: Ravens draft order is finalized