Ravens Plan to ‘Build Up’ Wide Receiver Depth Chart This Offseason

Ravens WRs Rashod Bateman and Demarcus Robinson

Getty Ravens WRs Rashod Bateman and Demarcus Robinson celebrate a touchdown in a regular season game on September 11, 2022.

According to head coach John Harbaugh, the Baltimore Ravens are slated to have most if not all of their starters and top performers on offense back for the 2023 season at every position group with one exception. Their wide receiver room is the only one that is not expected to be “wholly intact, completely intact”.

“The one area that needs to be built is the wide receiver room, so that will be a new room, basically,” Harbaugh said at the end-of-season press conference. “There will be pieces of it still there – you know the guys – and then we’ll be adding a lot of pieces to that room, and there [will] be competition, too. So, that’ll be the room that will start together in this new offense, and we’ll build with those guys.”

The team’s lack of depth and overall talent was glaring for most of the season after second-year pro Rashod Bateman got off to a hot start before suffering a foot injury that would eventually require season-ending surgery. Devin Duvernay, a third-year pro, all-purpose weapon, and two-time Pro Bowl returner would also go down with a foot injury that prematurely ended his 2022 season.

After that, the offense was forced to rely on the likes of veterans DeMarcus Robinson who was signed just before the end of the preseason, and Sammy Watkins who was claimed off waivers from the Green Bay Packers to close out the year. At one point, they signed a 36-year-old DeSean Jackson to help provide some of the vertical field-stretching element to the offense that was lost when Bateman went down.

Harbaugh is happy about being able to bring back about 75% of the offense “intact” because having continuity at so many spots and an influx of new talent at wideout will help the Ravens’ offense and quarterback Lamar Jackson be more successful in 2023.

“The wide receiver room can be built up, and those are pieces we can give Lamar and give him a chance to really thrive,” he said.

Ravens Unlikely to Take Huge Swing to Find Upgrade

While most fans and analysts are clamoring for the team to make a bold move at the position by acquiring a big name via free agency or massive trade, that would require a major investment of either salary cap space and/or premium draft capital.

Even though they are slated to be heading into a new direction on the offensive side of the ball with Greg Roman stepping down as the play caller, the front office doesn’t anticipate deviating from their traditional approach when it comes to responsible salary cap allocation.

“We’ll have to get creative, and there are things we can do,” Ravens’ general manager Eric DeCosta said. “There are a lot of different ways to go about constructing the team and finding players and affording players and various things like that. But we’ve got to be really creative.”

The fifth-year front office executive said the chances of the team making one of those blockbuster trades or huge free agency splashes at the position would be “more challenging – not impossible” when a team has a “big ticket item at quarterback” as they have with Jackson.

“We’ll have to make some tough calls on players that we have on the team, of course, and we’ll consider everything. There are different ways to do it.

A reporter asked him whether they would consider following the recent trend by some teams of swinging for the fences with a huge trade of early-round draft capital and giving out record-setting or at least near-the-top-of-the-market deals to pair their young franchise quarterbacks with proven elite playmaking wide receivers.

“What we don’t want, I think, is to mortgage two years from now, three years from now by paying a whole bunch of guys this year,” DeCosta said. “Our goal is to be a really competitive, strong team every single year.

Neither he nor Harbaugh has any interest in rolling the dice and going ‘all in’ to make a run in one single year and being forced into undergoing a lengthy rebuild whether it falls short or pays off.

“Our goal is to always have that window open when we can compete to win the whole thing,” DeCosta said. “I think we’ve made a lot of good decisions with the cap over the last four years. I’m excited to see where we are this year. But it goes without saying, you can’t pay everyone.”

As we all saw with the reigning Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams in their title-defending season, paying several players at or near the top of the market for their respective position groups can limit and their case, cripple, the front office’s ability to find and fill the roster with quality depth.

“You can’t have eight or nine players at the top all making ‘X’ amount, because what happens is you have nothing below, and we’ve seen teams like that. This year, we’ve seen teams like that. DeCosta said. “Depth is a critical thing in this sport because players get hurt, and I believe, personally, that depth is probably one of the most important things when building a roster, across the board, because guys do [get hurt], every single week.

“It’s great to have all those stars players, but you’ve got to have some young, ascending players beneath them, who can pick up when those guys aren’t there. And it’s hard when you have all these enormous salaries at the top of your ledger.”

Ravens Provide Positive Update on Bateman

The 2021 first-round pick was off to a blazing start to his second season in the league before it got cut short by a Lisfranc foot injury. He was leading the team with 19 yards per catch and had scored a pair of touchdowns of over 50 yards in the first four games of the year before he suffered a mid-foot sprain that would progress into an even larger setback by midseason.

The team was banking on him pairing with three-time Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews as the focal points and primary playmakers in the passing game in 2022 before injuries derailed those plans. He is now months removed from his surgery and according to Harbaugh, is not only on a speedy road to recovery but expected to be available to not be limited in the offseason as he prepares for a pivotal third season in 2023.

“The screws can come out if it’s the best thing for them to come out. I think they will come out, but they don’t have to come out,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not exactly sure how that works but the point about Bateman is he’s going to be ready really soon to run full speed.”

They believe that he is “going to have a great offseason” and will be ready to start running and resuming football activities by the time organized team activities begin.

“All these guys are healthy going into the offseason, which gives them a chance to train from now until then to get ready to go, and that helps your injury outlook going forward too,” Harbaugh said.