The Baltimore Ravens need more than $250 million in guaranteed cash to re-sign Lamar Jackson. Steve Smith Sr., a two-time All-Pro and five-time Pro-Bowler, who posted a 1,000-yard season with the Ravens in 2014, believes Jackson and the team need to change how they play offense.
Specifically, Jackson needs to involve his wideouts more often. This season’s receiving corps is thin, even after the recent arrival of DeSean Jackson, but Smith thinks the Ravens already have an underused pass-catcher who can expand their offense.
Unlikely WR Can Help Jackson
Speaking to Ravens Super Bowl winner Shannon Sharpe on the Club Shay Shay podcast, Smith named James Proche as the Ravens’ “most well-rounded wide receiver.”
Smith also told Sharpe “Baltimore needs to have a better offense that’s a little bit more creative. That pushes the ball outside of the hashes” to justify paying the QB1 what he wants.
While Smith identified the limitations with Jackson’s scheme, he didn’t put the blame on coordinator Greg Roman. Instead, Smith says he doesn’t like an offense “that looks like the Wing T.”
Those comments are an obvious reference to the run-heavy nature of the Ravens when Roman is calling the plays and Jackson’s on the field. Asked what he would do if he were offensive coordinator, Smith said simply, “feed my wide receivers.”
What Smith wants to see is Jackson matching some of the AFC’s best passers, including Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes, throw for throw. As Smith put it, Jackson’s “skill-set is he’s a quarterback. If he’s not a quarterback, then put him at a different position.”
The Ravens aren’t likely to do that any time soon, or ever, but they will need to see Jackson prove he can carry a pass-first offense and still win before they pay him $250 million. Involving Proche could be the first step in this crucial process.
It’s not as if the third-year pro doesn’t have other admirers connected to the Ravens.
Surprising WR Has Growing List of Fans
Smith’s description of Proche is high praise from a receiver of the former’s pedigree. Smith had eight 1,000-yard seasons during his career, with the last of those coming eight years ago, when he made 79 catches for 1,065 yards.
It’s somewhat surprising a receiver as prolific as Smith would single out Proche, who has caught just 18 passes since entering the NFL in 2020. Yet Smith isn’t the only one who endorses Proche’s skills.
His optimism is also shared by head coach John Harbaugh, per ESPN’s Jamison Hensley:
Hensley’s tweet was soon liked by another former Raven, backup quarterback Robert Griffin III:
Proche is being touted by influential voices, but he’s far from the first name you think of when assessing the Ravens’ receivers this year. Instead, it’s easier to think about Devin Duvernay, the versatile weapon compared to Danny Woodhead.
Duvernay has 18 catches for 240 yards and three touchdowns and has run the ball five times for 22 yards. He’s also established a niche as a lethal return man, having taken one kickoff for a touchdown already.
Aside from Duvernay, there’s also Rashod Bateman, the second-year player who is averaging over 20 yards a catch, per Hensley:
Bateman’s return from injury, along with Jackson’s signing and a bigger role for Proche, should give Baltimore’s franchise quarterback the targets he needs to throw the ball outside more often the way Smith demands.
If he can’t answer the call, Jackson will have a hard time agreeing the terms he wants for his next contract.