The Baltimore Ravens don’t just need a more productive wide receiver. They need a pass-catcher with different attributes than the wideouts already on the roster.
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of options in free agency and the 2023 NFL draft. The veteran market offers the quickest route to fixing the biggest weakness on the Ravens’ offense, with Green Bay Packers’ free agent Allen Lazard named as somebody who “fits Baltimore’s offensive identity.”
Lazard possesses the size and toughness the Ravens lack at receiver, but the identity of their offense could change following Greg Roman stepping down as coordinator.
Ravens Need Allen Lazard-Type Wide Receiver
A list on Ravens.com of 15 wide receivers the team can pursue this offseason mentioned Lazard first. The reason Lazard is a good fit centers on the 27-year-old’s physicality: “At 6-foot-5, Lazard is a big target who’s an excellent blocker and his toughness fits Baltimore’s offensive identity.”
Even a cursory glance at the Ravens’ main receiving options last season shows they were missing a Lazard type. Instead, quarterback Lamar Jackson threw to a fleet of smaller receivers, including 5’11”, 210-pound Devin Duvernay and 6’1″, 202-pounder Demarcus Robinson.
When the Ravens looked to improve their receiving corps, their attempts yielded 5’10” DeSean Jackson and 6’1″ Sammy Watkins. Lazard would definitely offer something different as a size mismatch against most covering defenders.
The Packers didn’t always take full advantage of Lazard’s physical traits, but No. 13 still proved he can make big plays. One of his best was this 42-yard catch against the Miami Dolphins in Week 16:
There aren’t many cornerbacks capable of beating Lazard to a jump ball or getting around him to prevent a contested catch. Those attributes should’ve made Lazard the go-to target in the Packers’ passing attack, but he found himself usurped by 6’5″ Christian Watson, who caught seven touchdowns as a rookie.
Watson is now the towering, vertical threat in Green Bay’s offense. His rapid developments makes it more likely Lazard finds a new home in free agency.
He’ll struggle to find a better destination than M&T Bank Stadium, where the Ravens still play a physical brand of football. Most of their toughness on offense is borne from a relentless running game that requires wideouts to be willing and effective blockers.
Lazard would be a major upgrade in this area thanks to plays like this three-for-one block against the Dolphins, highlighted by former New York Giants and Detroit Lions offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz:
The Ravens would make more use of Lazard’s skills as a blocker, even if the offense changes from the run-heavy scheme Roman called.
Ravens Searching for New Identity
Roman’s exit was confirmed by head coach John Harbaugh on Thursday, January 19. The statement officially brought to an end a tenure during which Roman designed an offense overly reliant on the ground game, but pedestrian throwing the ball.
His unit amassed 3,202 yards through the air, the third-fewest in the league, this season. The Ravens also mustered just 33 completions of 20 yards or more, with only the Giants producing fewer.
Numbers like those are why the Ravens have focused their search for Roman’s replacement on coaches with an expertise in the passing game. They include Dave Canales, who mentored Geno Smith to a Pro-Bowl season while quarterbacks coach for the Seattle Seahawks.
The Ravens also spoke with Brian Angelichio, who found success as pass-game coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler:
There’s a clear pattern to the type of coordinator the Ravens want to hire. A more expansive passing game is required if the Ravens are going to convince Jackson to stay and get more out of their QB1.
Jackson would have a better chance of thriving as a passer with a big target like Lazard on the outside complementing what All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews offers over the middle.