Lamar Jackson still doesn’t have a new contract, but at least he finally has a proven deep threat, after the Baltimore Ravens at last added a marquee wide receiver in free agency.
The Ravens signed a three-time Pro-Bowler on Tuesday, October 18. A wideout with five 1,000-yard seasons to his credit and experience on as many different teams.
This veteran is well and truly in the winter of his career, but he’s still a legitimate burner capable of transforming an inconsistent Ravens offense.
Ravens Offer NFL Comeback to Dynamic Field-Stretcher
Jackson’s now 35 and ready to play his 15th season in the pros. He began his career with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008, before stints with the Washington Commanders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Rams and Las Vegas Raiders.
No matter where he’s been, the defining feature of Jackson’s game has remained the same. Namely, the ability to stretch the field. A career average of 17.6 yards per reception is ample proof of his enduring ability to take the top off of defenses.
Jackson also owns a piece of league history as the player with the most touchdowns covering 60 or more yards, per Pro Sports Outlook:
A pass-catcher with this kind of game-breaking potential and flair for the big play is just what Jackson needs to help stall his recent struggles.
Jackson Finally Has the Weapon He Needs
A prolific start to his contract year has almost been forgotten while Jackson has floundered in key moments during recent games. He threw a critical interception to safety Julian Love during Week 6’s 24-20 loss to the New York Giants, just two weeks after tossing an end-zone pick to Jordan Poyer when the Ravens were beaten by the Buffalo Bills.
The growing penchant for costly errors earned Jackson criticism from former league MVP Rich Gannon. That criticism is only partly justified because there’s no doubt Jackson has struggled without a true deep threat in the passing game.
Rashod Bateman was filling the role at the start of the season, and the second-year pro made catches of 55 yards and 75 yards in the Ravens’ first two games. A foot injury has kept Bateman on the shelf since Week 4 and Jackson’s numbers have suffered as a result, per Jonas Shaffer of The Baltimore Sun, citing statistics from nflfastR:
Fortunately for Jackson, head coach John Harbaugh told reporters Bateman is “close” to returning, according to Ryan Mink of the team’s official site: “We’ll be talking about him this week, we’ll be talking about him on Thursday.”
Putting D-JAX into the lineup alongside Bateman could prompt a change in the latter’s role. The Ravens’ first-round draft pick in 2021 works best over the middle as an inside receiver, a position he can return to if Jackson is creating separation on the outside.
Speed like this will make the game easier for Baltimore’s franchise quarterback. It will prevent defenses from loading the box to stop his rushing threat, while opponents forced to play two deep safeties won’t be able to clamp on Bateman and All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews underneath.
This signing may only have a brief shelf life, but it’s the right move to unlock an offense stuck in reverse in recent weeks and a QB who needs vertical strikes in the playbook.