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Quarterback Lamar Jackson puts on a show every time he steps onto the field. But the Baltimore Ravens can’t be a one-man show while hoping to compete against the likes of the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins as the AFC’s best squads.
The addition of another wide receiver could go a long way to completing the Ravens offense. Fortunately, a superstar is ready to test the market after suffering a serious knee injury during Super Bowl LVI.
According to FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer, Odell Beckham Jr. should be fully cleared from his torn ACL next week, which will make the wide receiver open for business as he looks to sign with another team. Glazer added there will be “many suitors” for OBJ’s services.
The Ravens should be at the top of the list based on need and situation.
Monday’s performance against the New Orleans Saints showed how desperately the organization needs a true No. 1 wide receiver. Without All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews in the lineup due to injury, Jackson didn’t have a go-to target, particularly outside the numbers.
Baltimore’s wide receivers combined to make five receptions for 55 yards during the 27-13 victory at the Caesars Superdome.
Granted, Rashod Bateman to a season-ending foot injury During last week’s contest against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But the lack of depth beyond the 2021 first-round pick shows how poorly Baltimore’s roster is constructed at a key position.
Yes, the Ravens operate a run-first offense. Andrews and rookie Isaiah Likely are definitely weapons. Eventually, Andrews will return (likely after next weekend’s bye) from shoulder and knee injuries. The Ravens require more firepower, though, particularly to the wide portions of the field.
To Eric DeCosta’s credit, the general manager tried to make a move by signing veteran DeSean Jackson last month, and the 35-year-old speedster played his first game with the team Monday. Unfortunately, Jackson pulled a hamstring and didn’t finish the contest. His signing served a half-measure anyhow.
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DeCosta and Co. failed to properly address wide receiver long before the 15-year vet even became an option.
After trading Marquise Brown to the Arizona Cardinals for a first-round pick in April’s draft, the front office chose not to address the position despite moving a legitimate 1,000-yard option. DeCosta earmarked Bateman for an expanded role after choosing the Minnesota product with the 27th overall pick during the previous draft.
Even then, plenty of uncertainty swirled around Baltimore’s wide receivers as the league saw the position enter premium status thanks to numerous high-profile trades and mega-contract extensions.
Despite the obvious sea change, the Ravens remained steadfast in their belief among the team’s young wide receivers, including Devin Duvernay and James Proche II. Demarcus Robinson also joined the group on a one-year, prove-it deal.
They’ve had their moments. Those moments aren’t good enough on a consistent basis to dissuade the front office from making a significant move to help achieve postseason aspirations.
The biggest knock on Jackson’s sterling career so far is the fact the Ravens have won one playoff game with him as the starting quarterback.
The ’19 NFL MVP is truly unique. His ability to evade pressure and create with his legs border on otherworldly. In fact, he now ranks fifth all-time in rushing yardage from a quarterback. Jackson required fewer than half the games to join the likes of Michael Vick, Cam Newton, Randall Cunningham and Russell Wilson.
“I do not take that for granted. I said, ‘Wow’ a couple of times,” Harbaugh told reporters after being asked about his quarterback’s ability to slip away from defenders and create big plays.
But as special as Jackson is, he can be slowed by the league’s top defenses once Baltimore reaches the win-or-go home stage of the process. By acquiring a real threat on the outside, the Ravens offense could expand and become even more dangerous.
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On Saturday, Beckham turned 30. The former second-team All-Pro is now three seasons removed from his last 1,000-yard effort. He’s also endured two ACL reconstructions on the same knee. Yet his value remains at an all-time high after he played lights out during the first half of this year’s Super Bowl.
“I think there’s going to be a big bidding war for Odell,” Glazer stated (h/t Kyle Posey of Niners Nation).
Multiple teams have already been linked as possibilities. Glazer mentioned the Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers. The Los Angeles Rams remain in play. Beckham said the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants have shown interest as well.
” … GMs of teams that are all going to playoffs—the teams that are 6-2 or 7-0—the top teams are calling,” Beckham stated during an interview with Complex Sports. “It’s not like any just team is calling because people know what I can do on the field.”
The Ravens have two things going for them in Beckham’s potential recruitment: stability and Jackson.
“I wanna be able to spill … these next three or four years into something where I can buy a home. Like I can call this place home,” Beckham added. “I’m tired of living out of too many suitcases. … I’ve done the rock ‘n roll life.”
Baltimore’s offensive setup may not be as pleasing for a big-time wide receiver whose options are plentiful. But Beckham can walk into Baltimore’s facilities as WR1 from Day 1. He’ll get to play with a young quarterback well on his way toward a Hall of Fame career, with the expectation he’ll either get franchise tagged or signed to a long- term extension after this season.
Plus, the Ravens win. They currently reside atop the AFC North, with two losing campaigns since John Harbaugh became head coach in 2008.
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Furthermore, Beckham’s aspiration of laying down roots in one spot for multiple years after bouncing from the New York Giants to the Cleveland Browns to the Rams during the previous four seasons plays in Baltimore’s favor.
Currently, the Ravens have only $2.4 million in available salary-cap space, according to Spotrac. A multi-year deal allows the team to offer a significant signing bonus, which will be prorated over the entirety of the contract. For accounting purposes, the wide receiver can play under the veteran minimum through the rest of this season.
The Ravens are already quite good. After all, Baltimore is only the fifth team in the Super Bowl era to hold leads of 10 or more points in their first nine games of the season, per The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec.
Jackson can take over any game at any time. The running game is still potent. A healthy Andrews will provide a significant boost. Baltimore’s defensive front remains aggressive and highly physical. The franchise simply doesn’t feature a complete roster.
Adding a receiver of Beckham’s caliber after the trade deadline brings enough potential to turn the Ravens offense from something that’s difficult to handle and turn it into a true showstopper.
Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @brentsobleski.