WR Market Continues to Dry Up as Ravens Remain in Limbo with Lamar Jackson

The Baltimore Ravens have been one of the most inactive teams since the new league year began outside of bringing back several key special team contributors on short-term deals as a result of placing the nonexclusive franchise tag on All-Pro quarterback Lamar Jackson.

General manager Eric DeCosta had to make some tough decisions just to get underneath the salary cap by the March 15 deadline. Since then, he has essentially had his hands tied behind his back when it comes to trying to bring in notable outside talent to address some of the team’s top needs this offseason.

Near the top of their to-do list this offseason right behind or as a 1B to the 1A that is signing Jackson to a long-term deal is upgrading at wide receiver. Head coach John Harbaugh vowed that the team would “build up” the depth chart at the position that was ravaged by injuries in 2022 and has been one of the league’s least productive for years.

The Ravens remain among the contending teams interested in signing four-time Pro Bowl wideout Odell Beckham according to The Score’s Jordan Schultz. However, the rest of the veteran wide receiver market both in free agency and the trading block continues to dry up while they remain at odds in contract talks with the former unanimous league MVP.

They had to watch as the top three free agents at the position found new homes in the same 24-hour period as Juju Smith-Schuster, Jakobi Meyers, and Allen Lazard all signed mid-tier deals with AFC teams for an average of around $11 million annually on Wednesday, March 15, 2023.

In the subsequent days that passed, they stood by as another wide receiver-needy team, the New York Giants, signed Paris Campbell and re-signed Darius Slayton to very modest short-term deals on March 16 worth just $4.7 and $6 million.

On Sunday, March 19, three more notable names and potentially impactful pass catchers got snatched up. The Dallas Cowboys acquired 6-time 1,000-yard veteran receiver Brandin Cooks in a trade with the Houston Texans in exchange for a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft and a sixth-rounder in 2024. The Carolina Panthers signed Adam Thielen, the top available veteran free agent left on the market, to a three-year deal. Mack Hollins signed a one-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons for a mere $2.5 million following a breakout season in 2022.

DeCosta and the Ravens still need to keep enough cap space open and possibly even free up more in order to match any offer sheet Jackson might negotiate with another team ahead of the 2023 season. This possible eventuality means that, unless the two sides agree to a long-term deal that reduces his cap hit for this upcoming year, they’ll likely continue to watch more proven pass catchers get signed or traded elsewhere.

Best Remaining Options From What’s Left 

While the top of the free agent market has all but dried up outside of Beckham Jr., there are still some solid receivers available that can be key contributors and others with breakout potential. There are also some potential trade targets that could still be had if the asking price isn’t too steep.

DeAndre Hopkins – This is the longest shot of the bunch given their current cap situation but the Arizona Cardinals have been reportedly looking to trade the three-time First-Time All-Pro. If the Ravens can get them to agree to pay part of his 2023 salary in a similar fashion to what the Cowboys did with the Texans in the Cooks trade, it just might work out. In 2022, Hopkins recorded 64 receptions for 717 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns according to Pro Football Reference.

Yeah @DeAndreHopkins is BACK.

📺: #AZvsMIN on FOX
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/Tc7CqisiVw pic.twitter.com/9UQJmxSE8U

— NFL (@NFL) October 30, 2022

DJ Chark – The former Pro Bowl wideout is still just 26 years old and didn’t put up the kind of production in 2022 needed to cash in after signing a one-year prove-it deal with the Detroit Lions last offseason. Nevertheless, he still possesses great size at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, 4.34 vertical speed, and big play potential to make some noise in the Ravens’ offense on the perimeter as a true ‘X’ receiver. Chark appeared in 11 games last year and recorded 30 receptions for 502 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns per PFR.


📺: #MINvsDET on FOX
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/RvZfbqafel pic.twitter.com/SIadLdB4jZ

— NFL (@NFL) December 11, 2022

Mecole Hardman – The former second-round pick and Pro Bowl returner is coming off his least productive season as a pro in what was his first time not playing a full season. Prior to this last year, he had recorded over 530 receiving yards and at least 2 touchdowns in each of his first three seasons in the league with the Kansas City Cheifs. Coming off an injury-shortened season in which he recorded just 328 scrimmage yards on 29 touches and scored 6 touchdowns per PFR missed the last nine games of the regular season and two playoff games including Super Bowl 57, Hardman could be had at a discount on a one-year prove-it deal.


📺: #KCvsSF on FOX pic.twitter.com/rn83FKWDVj

— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) October 23, 2022

Olamide Zaccheaus – The former undrafted free agent has improved his production every year since he entered the league in 2019 despite playing with subpar and depreciating quarterback play with the Atlanta Falcons. He possesses big-play potential as both a vertical and a run-after-the-catch threat. In 17 games, he recorded career-highs in receptions (40), receiving yards (533), catch percentage (65.6), and touchdowns (3) per PFR.

Mariota to Zaccheaus cuts the lead to 6! @AtlantaFalcons

📺: #ATLvsTB on FOX
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/bqJCgQ9Kz8 pic.twitter.com/T5F8ewj6wa

— NFL (@NFL) October 9, 2022

Jerry Jeudy – The former first-round pick has close ties to Jackson given that they’re from the neighboring parts of south Florida and two years left on his rookie deal. However, he’d likely be the most costly and most unlikely option given how little draft capital the Ravens have this year and how much they loathe parting with picks. The Denver Broncos are reportedly open to trading Jeudy but the current asking price is rumored to be a first-round pick and then some. For an ascending player coming off his best season to date, it still might be too steep. In 2022, he set career highs in receptions (67), receiving yards (972), touchdowns (6), and scrimmage yards (1,012) per PFR.

A dime from @DangeRussWilson to @JerryJeudy! 😮

📺: #DENvsLV on CBS
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/qvpR1tCMp1 pic.twitter.com/Wj2aitMZAX

— NFL (@NFL) October 2, 2022

Ravens Re-Sign Core Special Teams Player

One move that the team did make over the weekend was bringing back inside linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips according to The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec. He was one of their five restricted free agents that they opted not to place a tender on and become an unrestricted free agent.

Ravens are re-signing ILB and core special teamer Del’Shawn Phillips to 1-year deal.

— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) March 19, 2023

Phillips first joined the team after being claimed off waivers last August after being released by the New York Jets. He appeared in 16 games last season where thrived and played 64 percent of the Ravens’ total special teams snaps and finished 5 total tackles per PFR. In addition to being a core special teams player, the former undrafted free agent will also compete to provide depth behind starters Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen.

In other special teams news, Zrebiec also reported that former Ravens defensive back and special teams ace, Anthony Levine Sr. is leaving the organization to become an assistant special teams coach for the Tennessee Titans. After deciding to retire last offseason, he spent the last year as a scouting and coaching assistant.

In non-free agency news, former Ravens DB/special teams standout Anthony Levine Sr., who worked last yr. as a scouting and coaching asst, has left the organization to become an asst. special teams coach for the Titans.
Levine had been w/the Ravens in some capacity for a decade.

— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) March 20, 2023

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