Since landing a young signal caller in whom they have faith in Joe Flacco, the Baltimore Ravens have been a good team considered a stud wide receiver away from joining the ranks of the elite.
An opening-round playoff victory against the New England Patriots showcased the team’s powerhouse running game while it continued its tradition of hard-nosed defensive play.
That defense is getting older, however, with Ed Reed contemplating retirement and Ray Lewis a step slower when forced into coverage. As another year passes, that defense will need to rely a little more on the team’s up-and-coming offensive unit.
That offensive unit has the luxury of youth, with Joe Flacco and Ray Rice entering their third years while Michael Oher is about to begin his sophomore season. What it lacks is someone for Flacco to consistently throw the football to.
Baltimore’s leading receiver in 2009 was Derrick Mason, a 36-year-old wideout on the free agent market. Behind him, tight end Todd Heap put up a respectable 53 catches, but is not the 70+ catch threat he was in 2005 and 2006.
Behind those two, no other receiver managed better than 34 catches.
In an attempt to address the team’s dire need at the position, Baltimore landed wide receiver Donte Stallworth shortly after his reinstatement to the league. The move received mixed reception.
Some individuals looked to the accident as a reason he should not be allowed back in the league while others noted that before his tragic accident, he had not been a perpetual character-concern guy in the guise of Pacman Jones.
Purely as a football decision, the move made sense. Stallworth is a vertical threat who has averaged over 19 yards per catch twice in his career.
He is a great No. 3 wideout who can be a respectable No. 2 starter. He comes with a low price tag and the burning desire to again prove himself in an NFL arena.
Paired with Mark Clayton and Kelly Washington, the Ravens have a solid nucleus of wideouts for their depth chart. The one thing they still lack is a solid go-to guy to lead the host of supporting-cast names.
What has to be of concern is how Baltimore may seek to address that biggest piece to the wide-receiver puzzle. The team has been reported to be expressing interest in free agent wide receiver Terrell Owens in an effort to fill the glaring hole.
At 36 years old, Owens would be the same age as the man he would be supplanting, and comes with much more baggage. Aside from a 2005 season in which Owens only played seven games, 2009 was the enigmatic receiver’s worst season since his rookie year.
He managed only 55 receptions and 829 yards as Buffalo’s leading wideout. It was the first year where it was his performance, and not his mouth, that left his team disinterested in retaining him.
If Buffalo doesn’t feel Owens is worth keeping, Baltimore should take heed. They would be much better served trying to pluck a wide receiver from the draft.
Several names are present who would be solid late first options, especially if one of the two chief names (Golden Tate or Dez Bryant) can slip far enough back.
Taking a flyer on one wideout is fine, but if Baltimore really does sign Owens, they might be setting the young offense back a step in 2010. Even a team in need should make sure they try to fill that need the right way, otherwise it runs the risk of setting itself further back than where it started from.
T.O. was once a dynamic threat at wide receiver, but he is not the way to success in Baltimore in any fashion. If the Ravens do sign him, they will most likely regret it.