The Baltimore Ravens are looking more like themselves during the 2022 NFL season. They’re leading the AFC North behind a powerful running game and a tough, opportunistic defense.
Familiarity breeds contempt, though, and while these Ravens look like a playoff team, something’s missing. This year’s group won’t go far in the postseason without a difference-maker in the passing game.
General manager Eric DeCosta and head coach John Harbaugh know franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson needs an elite receiver. Perhaps that’s why the Ravens are still talking to an in-demand free agent with a Super Bowl win on his CV.
Ravens 1 of 5 Talking to Dynamic Pass-Catcher
Odell Beckham Jr. has yet to make a decision on who he’ll play for this season. The field is narrowing though, with the Ravens one of five teams talking to the 30-year-old, according to CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson:
Anderson’s assertion “conversations continue” between Beckham, the Ravens and the Kansas City Chiefs is good news for Jackson. It means there’s still a chance the big-name QB playing in a contract year will finally be equipped with a wide receiver capable of elevating his game.
Jackson has thrown for just 1,977 yards this season and is averaging a mere 6.8 yards per completion. Those numbers are the direct result of not having a premier playmaker on the outside.
Beckham still fits the bill, despite tearing his left ACL for the second time in his career during the Los Angeles Rams’ 23-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI. Before the injury, Beckham more than did his part to help the Rams lift the Lombardi Trophy, catching five touchdowns during eight regular-season games, then grabbing 21 receptions for 288 yards and two more scores during the playoffs.
The numbers explain why the Ravens face such heavy competition for the three-time Pro-Bowler. It’s a competition the Ravens will have a hard time winning.
The Dallas Cowboys and Beckham’s former team the New York Giants are firmly in the mix for his signature, but the Chiefs will also be tempting. They’re the best team in the league when healthy. Then there’s the Buffalo Bills, at least as strong a contender as the Ravens for supremacy within the conference.
Beckham has his pick of some loaded teams, but barring the Giants, the Ravens have the greatest need for his services.
Offense Still Lacking Marquee Receiver
Jackson doesn’t have a marquee receiver, aside from All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews. He can boss the middle of the field, but there’s still a need for somebody who can beat coverage on the perimeter.
The Ravens have been searching for solutions, with former Chiefs wideout Demarcus Robinson earning praise from Jackson after his busy performance against the Carolina Panthers in Week 11:
Robinson is an intriguing option, but like versatile fellow wideout Devin Duvernay, he’s not going to frighten defenses. Putting Beckham on the field would draw focus away from Jackson’s other targets.
It would also give the dual-threat signal-caller a receiver with a flair for making the difficult catches and turning errant throws into completions. Jackson needs somebody with that skill because he’s had some issues with accuracy when trying to push the ball vertically this season.
The problem showed up on this play against the New Orleans Saints in Week 10, highlighted by Ryan Mink of Ravens.com:
Having Beckham to aim for would improve Jackson’s deep passing game. It would also ensure the Ravens have more variety in the red zone, where the plan is often to look for a tight end or run the quarterback.
Beckham proved the catalyst to put the Rams over the hump when he moved to L.A. midway through last season. He’ll be primed to make a similar impact if he lands in Baltimore.