No franchise received as much praise for its work during the NFL draft than the Baltimore Ravens. General manager Eric DeCosta earned top marks for selecting a class of prospects populated by tough players who fit the Ravens’ identity on both sides of the ball.
The one place where they came up short was wide receiver. In the wake of their trading Marquise “Hollywood” Brown to the Arizona Cardinals for a first-round pick and watching free agent Sammy Watkins sign with the Green Bay Packers, the Ravens’ decision to not draft Brown’s replacement leaves the team threadbare at wideout.
The free agent market can still provide the Ravens with some help, and one writer thinks a four-time Pro Bowl receiver from another AFC contender would be a more than adequate replacement for Brown.
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Ravens Advised to Revisit Veteran Option
In his look at the best fits for the top remaining free agents after the draft, CBS Sports’ Jordan Dajani recommended a solution to the Ravens’ receiver shortage: T.Y. Hilton.
“Hilton is of course a candidate to return to the Indianapolis Colts, the only team he’s ever played for,” Dajani wrote on May 1. “But the Ravens came calling last offseason, and should again with Marquise Brown now with the Arizona Cardinals. Hilton isn’t the same star he was a few years ago, and he caught just 23 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns in 2021, but he’s still a veteran with reliable hands who can help Lamar Jackson.”
The Ravens did, indeed, kick Hilton’s tires a year ago. He confirmed as much during a March 2021 appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show“: “Five seconds away, man. That was it. I’ve been talking to [Baltimore] the whole time. [Indianapolis] came in and made a great push at the end and they wanted to get it done.”
Revisiting the idea of signing Hilton might be a smart move from DeCosta. The man who posted five 1,000-yard seasons in 10 years with the Indianapolis Colts would replace Brown as the big-play target quarterback Lamar Jackson now lacks. Currently, Baltimore’s starting receiver corps consists of relatively unproven players: Rashod Bateman, 22; Devin Duvernay, 24; and James Proche II, 25.
Hilton can still stretch the field, even at 32 and having failed to complete a full season since 2017. Neck and quad injuries, as well as a concussion, limited Hilton last season. He started only nine games but still averaged 14.39 yards per reception.
His stock may have fallen in recent years, but Hilton remains a bona fide Colts legend who could still help a number of teams, including the Ravens:
The Ravens might want to act fast because Hilton has been “having some conversations” with Colts general manager Chris Ballard about returning to Indy, according to an April 22 tweet by NFL Network’s James Palmer.
Market Still Rich in WRs
The deal for Brown enabled the Ravens to stay active in Round 1, with the pick eventually becoming, via another trade, center Tyler Linderbaum. Getting Linderbaum, in addition to landing safety Kyle Hamilton 14th overall, helped DeCosta get the highest grades for his draft work.
It’s a reasonable critique since parting company with Brown hardly pleased Jackson. He and Brown were close, and Jackson’s early reaction to the trade was far from happy:
One way to placate their franchise quarterback, who has still yet to sign a contract extension, might be for the Ravens to equip Jackson with a primary receiver. Finding one of those shouldn’t be a problem in a free agent market still loaded with marquee pass catchers, including Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr. and Will Fuller.