Ravens Need Receiver, Fans Need Patience

Bleacher ReportContributor IMay 12, 2009

NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 10:  Wide receiver Derrick Mason #85 of the Baltimore Ravens walks off the field after defeating the Tennessee Titans 13-10 during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game on January 10, 2009 at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

For years, Baltimore fans have been saying the same thing: "We need a quarterback."

Now that Joe Flacco has donned his purple armor and swept the town off its feet, Ravens fans have been toying around with a new cliché: "We need a receiver."

The receiver horse is so dead in this town, I'm pretty sure beating it is more a job for the Ghostbusters than for sports writers, but it's an issue that remains unsolved.

There is no doubt that the Ravens are in desperate need of a talented wide out. Derrick Mason is an amazing player, but he can't play forever.

Mark Clayton can be dangerous, but he lacks the consistency to be a No. 1.

Demetrius Williams has potential but can't stay healthy.

Marcus Smith can't seem to make the jump from training camp to full games.

Joe Flacco has the tools to put the ball wherever he wants, the Ravens just need to make sure someone in a purple jersey is there to catch it, and I don't mean a Viking's cornerback.

The AFC Championship game exposed the lack of receiver depth of the Ravens' roster. Instead of pounding the ball like everyone expected them to, Cam Cameron came out with a battery of play action passes.

The Steelers were fooled, the only problem was that none of the Ravens' receivers could get open. All they had to do was blanket Mason, put a corner on Clayton, and sit back in coverage. Flacco had no one to throw to, and the game plan fell apart.

Ravens receivers finished with a combined total of five catches.

Back in Baltimore, the chants began: "We need a receiver! We need a receiver!"

Well, the NFL Draft has come and gone, and once again, we learned that Ozzie Newsome will not "draft for need." He and his staff are going to select the best player available, period.

You won't find them reaching for Darrius Heyward-Bey at pick No. 7 like that other "R" team.

You won't even find them taking Hakeem Nicks or Kenny Britt if they don't feel strongly that they are the best possible picks.

The policy is a double-edged sword, in many ways.

The smart, safe drafting procedures the Ravens have been implementing for years are one of the biggest reasons the team has been able to avoid back-to-back losing seasons. The lack of flash and pizazz can be frustrating from a fan's perspective, however.

Fans wanted them to mortgage their future in a trade for Anquan Boldin, or perhaps trade away next year's first rounder for the rights to draft Crabtree. They want the big names, the flashy skill players, and the excitement. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's not the Raven way.

The Raven way is to draft an extraordinarily talented tackle to anchor the offensive line for years to come (Michael Oher). The Raven way is to develop undrafted talent, like Bart Scott, into Pro Bowl talent. The Raven way is to win with defense. The Raven way is to plan for the future.

Ravens fans just need to be patient. They're going to find a receiver sooner or later, and in the meantime, you can expect them to be a competitive team.

Mason, Clayton, and Williams will get the job done until Ozzie Newsome finds his guy. It could be this offseason, next year's draft, or even after that.

One thing that you can trust, though, is that when they do decide to shell out the big bucks on a receiver, he's going to be good.