First of all, as was the case heading into the 2012 season, the current crop of Baltimore Ravens wide receivers comprises one of the deepest units on the team.
You just might not know it, yet.
Yesterday, Anquan Boldin was traded to the San Francisco 49ers for a sixth-round pick. The move will save Baltimore a precious $6 million in cap space. The Ravens are now $13,211,234 below the 2013 salary cap ($123 million).
With second-round tenders costing $2.02 million and original-round tenders costing $1.33 million, the Ravens will have retained three players for $5.37 million—$630,000 less than it would've cost to just keep Boldin.
This is assuming no team gives any of those three players an offer sheet that the Ravens wouldn't then match, and there's a very strong possibility all three of those players will stay in Baltimore.
Letting Boldin go was also positive from the standpoint of keeping the roster young. Jacoby Jones is now the oldest wide receiver on the Ravens, and he's only 28. The next oldest wide receiver on the Ravens is 25-year-old Tori Gurley.
A big concern about players getting old (which Jones isn't) is that they also get slow (which Jones isn't). However, Baltimore has a stable of receivers who collectively are incredibly fast and bigger and more physical than you might think.
As far as acquiring wide receivers via free agency, it's not a likely path for the Ravens to take, as they won't want to use up the cap space they just gained from trading Boldin for another wide receiver.
If Baltimore wants to bring in another wideout, it will likely look to the NFL draft in April to do so. Here are four prospects who could fit well in Baltimore's offense.
Steman Bailey, West Virginia
Bailey is a dynamic, physical, aggressive player who somehow maintained a rare level of dominance throughout his college career. In 2012 alone, Bailey caught 114 passes for 1,622 yards (14.2 yards per reception) and 25 touchdowns.
That's not a typo.
Last year, Bailey had five games in which he caught 11 or more passes, five games in which his receiving yardage totaled more than 150 and six games in which he caught two or more touchdowns.
If he's still on the board, it would be hard for the Ravens to resist drafting Bailey.
Josh Boyce, TCU
While he's two inches shorter and 14 pounds lighter than Boldin, Josh Boyce plays a lot like the former Raven. In five of the seven events at the combine, Boyce was among the best performers at his position, including a 4.38 40-yard dash.
He's a strong, athletic receiver who excels in the slot, but although he doesn't take plays off, Boyce struggles to finish them at times.
With proper coaching, he could become a big-time player. But for now, Boyce looks to need some time to acclimate to the NFL game. Expect him to be drafted somewhere in the middle to the end of the fourth round.
Markus Wheaton, Oregon State
The first line of Markus Wheaton's NFL.com "strengths" profile: "His quickness is blatant and dangerous." In other words, he's a matchup nightmare.
That sounds like someone worth drafting.
Wheaton will likely be a slot receiver at the next level, but he can also make plays on the outside too. And while he's 5'11", 189 pounds, Wheaton is very strong, as we saw at the combine when he benched 225 pounds 20 times (tied for third-best among wide receivers).
Wheaton has a good shot to be drafted before the end of the second round. Although the Ravens don't need a wide receiver, if they decide to draft Wheaton, they'll likely have to use a high pick on him.
Robert Woods, Southern California
Robert Woods is a pro-ready receiver who could flourish in any offensive system. He isn't elite in any one area, but is well above average in most areas. Route-running, inside patterns, perimeter patterns, instinct, speed and blocking are all ways Woods can help the Ravens.
The Trojans didn't have a great season, but considering the coaching staff and alumni Woods had access to, it won't be a surprise to see him have a solid NFL career.
Like Wheaton, Woods will likely be available in the late portion of the second round.
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