If the Ravens care about Lamar Jackson, they’ll give him a top WR this offseason

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Matthew Stevens
·4 min read
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It’s clear from the outside looking in . . . The Baltimore Ravens desperately need to give quarterback Lamar Jackson a little more help in the form of an experienced and consistently great outside possession receiver. Unfortunately, it’s not very likely to happen.

There are several things going against the idea of Baltimore signing one of the top free-agent wide receivers this offseason. For one, top wide receivers are expensive and the Ravens have limited funds this offseason due to the expected drop in the salary cap. While Baltimore could make a deal work (the Cardinals signed J.J. Watt to an expensive deal despite having less cap space than the Ravens), they’ve often ignored the position in favor of using their money to bolster the defense and create a stockpile of tight ends. This offseason looks no different as the Ravens have needs at tight end and pass rusher.

While Baltimore could buck trends and go after someone like Allen Robinson, history points to them signing a mid-tier free agent instead. Even going back to the days of Joe Flacco, the Ravens have been the butt of NFL jokes for their inability to draft and develop wide receivers in-house and being cheap at the position in free agency. Baltimore has often been the destination for free-agent wide receivers who are on their last legs, and while it’s worked out at times, the list of busts is far greater than the successes.

I believe in the Ravens’ rushing attack and even go as far as to think the offense isn’t nearly as bad as fans and some analysts believe it is. But Baltimore is repeating the same mistake it made with Flacco, failing to recognize they’re actively hurting their franchise quarterback’s development by giving him lackluster receiving options.

Let’s take a look around the league at the young quarterbacks Jackson is often compared against to see what they’re working with.

Team

QB

WR

Cleveland Browns

Baker Mayfield

Jarvis Landry / Odell Beckham Jr.

Buffalo Bills

Josh Allen

Stefon Diggs / Cole Beasley

Kansas City Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes

Tyreek Hill / Sammy Watkins

Arizona Cardinals

Kyler Murray

Larry Fitzgerald / DeAndre Hopkins

Los Angeles Chargers

Justin Herbert

Keenan Allen

Though the Texans traded away Hopkins to the Cardinals, they added Brandin Cooks to help Deshaun Watson. Even the Cincinnati Bengals — who are currently in the middle of a massive rebuild — still gave rookie quarterback Joe Burrow A.J. Green to work with. The teams with successful young quarterbacks have invested heavily in surrounding them with top wide receivers.

In fact, all of the league’s top quarterbacks have top wide receivers paired with them, and that’s the case nearly every single year. The only quarterback in my recent memory who has been asked to succeed with a lackluster set of pass-catchers around him was Tom Brady for a few years with the Patriots. Even he had a Hall of Fame-caliber tight end in Rob Gronkowski.

The Ravens aren’t completely devoid of talent on offense, which is fair to point out, but it’s focused almost solely on assisting the rushing attack while letting the passing game stagnate. Baltimore has Mark Andrews at tight end and Marquise Brown as a combination inside/outside receiver. Both players have done well in their own right and Andrews should be considered one of the top tight ends in the league right now but they still don’t equal the likes of Hopkins or Travis Kelce.

The Ravens are hoping Brown can turn into someone as capable as Tyreek Hill or Stefon Diggs. For as great as Andrews is, he’s often seen opposing defenses be able to focus on shutting him down because of the lack of talent elsewhere. James Proche and Devin Duvernay are promising young players but they combined to see the field for just 372 of the 1,026 offensive snaps in 2020 — just 18% of their combined potential snaps.

There are plenty of ongoing discussions about offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Baltimore’s run-first scheme, and Jackson’s ability as a passer; especially among fans this offseason. While those definitely have an impact on production, the reality is there’s not a quarterback in this league that could put up top numbers without some capable talent around them. Jackson has far exceeded expectations because he’s taken huge strides as a passer and is still an ever-present threat when running the ball, which boosts what Baltimore does offensively. However, the Ravens cannot ask Jackson to take the next step as a passer if they’re going to surround him with mediocre talent.

For the sake of their current franchise quarterback, it’s way past time for Baltimore to give Jackson the top target they’ve never given any of their previous quarterbacks.

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