Steelers Castoff Emerging as ‘Key Playmaker’ for Ravens?

Deon Cain

Justin Berl/Getty Images Jordan Poyer of the Buffalo Bills intercepts a pass intended for Deon Cain of the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 15, 2019.

Wide receivers don’t want to play in the Baltimore Ravens’ run-oriented, Lamar Jackson-led offense. That’s the narrative that has dogged the Ravens for quite some time, and the issue came to the forefront in mid-March when unrestricted free agents JuJu Smith-Schuster and T.Y. Hilton both rejected the Ravens, electing to remain with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts, respectively.

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As a result, the Ravens turned to the draft (again) to add talent at the position, selecting Rashod Bateman (Minnesota) with the No. 27 overall pick in the first round and Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State) with the No. 131 overall pick in round four.

Yet according to Todd Karpovich, who covers the Ravens for, it’s former Steelers receiver Deon Cain who was the “most impressive wide receiver at the Ravens’ voluntary practices last week,” describing him as a player who is “emerging as [a] key playmaker” for Baltimore.

Deon Cain is a 2018 Sixth-Round Pick of the Colts

The Ravens signed Cain—6-foot-2 and 202 pounds—to a Reserve/Future contract in January, and it’s probably not a good sign for the Ravens that Cain stood out from the crowd at Baltimore’s camp. Last year, the former sixth-rounder out of Clemson finished the season on Pittsburgh’s practice squad (having been elevated for two games in 2020, during which he played 10 snaps), and the Steelers didn’t move to re-sign him to a Reserve/Future contract. Nor was he particularly impactful in 2019, when he caught five passes for 72 yards for the Steelers, plus four catches for 52 yards for the Colts.

Meanwhile, the Ravens have invested a tremendous amount of draft capital at the position in recent years. In addition to the two aforementioned receivers the Ravens selected in 2021, they also drafted a pair of receivers in 2020, those being Devin Duvernay (third round, Texas) and James Proche (sixth round, SMU). Duvernay contributed 20 catches for 201 yards during his rookie year and Proche had one catch for 14 yards.

At the moment, Marquise Brown—a cousin of former Steelers receiver Antonio Brown—is currently the team’s top threat. (The 2019 first-round pick caught 58 passes for 769 yards and eight touchdowns last year.) Meanwhile, Miles Boykin, a 2019 third-rounder out of Notre Dame has also been a significant contributor, with 32 receptions for 464 yards and seven touchdown catches in two seasons.

The Ravens Ultimately Landed a Veteran WR in Sammy Watkins

Despite striking out with both JuJu Smith-Schuster and T.Y. Hilton, it’s worth noting that the Ravens did finally agree to a contract with a veteran wide receiver in late March, that being Sammy Watkins, the former No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Watkins spent the past three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs and caught 37 passes for 421 yards and two touchdowns last year. Over the course of a seven-year career that has also included stints with the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams, Watkins has 321 catches for 4,665 yards and 33 touchdown receptions.

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