After rocky first week of free agency, what’s next for Ravens?

March 19, 2012 | Luke Jones

Entering the start of free agency, no position appeared deeper than wide receiver, which led me to believe there would be some good value in looking beyond the top names such as Vincent Jackson and Marques Colston.

However, that optimistic notion evaporated when Washington set the tone for the market by signing former Colts receiver Pierre Garcon to a $42.5 million contract roughly an hour into the signing period. That deal included $20.5 million in guaranteed money for a player without a 1,000-yard season in his career.

It paved the way for a rabid rush on signing — and in many cases, overpaying — wide receivers, leaving the cap-challenged Ravens with few options to consider in adding depth at wide receiver.

Wide receiver and return specialist Ted Ginn Jr. visited Baltimore on Friday, but the former first-round pick should only be viewed as a kick returner who might be able to contribute on a very limited basis as a No. 4 receiver. However, it’s likely that Ginn is looking to be paid as a player with a real ability to do both. Soon to be 27, Ginn caught just 19 passes for 220 yards in San Francisco last season.

In what’s becoming a broken-record theme, the draft may be the organization’s best outlet for finding a No. 3 receiver candidate behind starters Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill is probably a reach at the end of the first round, but his size and athleticism make him very difficult to pass up if he’s still on the board. Intriguing candidates late in the second round could include Rutgers’ Mohamed Sanu and the 6-foot-4 Brian Quick from Appalachian State

Finding a receiver with the ability to be a factor in the return game would also be valuable. Arkansas wide receiver Joe Adams had an impressive career in the SEC, but his slower-than-expected 40 time (4.55) at the NFL Combine knocked his draft stock down a couple pegs, meaning he might be available as late as the fourth or fifth round.

Regardless of how the Ravens ultimately address the position, second-year wide receivers LaQuan Williams and Tandon Doss have to be pleased with how the free-agent market has played out thus far as they try to work their way up the depth chart.

Remember last year?

For those panicking over a rocky start to free agency and the Ravens already losing three starters from a year ago, just think back to late July.

Seven starters from the previous season said goodbye before the start of training camp: tight end Todd Heap, wide receiver Derrick Mason, fullback Le’Ron McClain, right guard Chris Chester, defensive tackle Kelly Gregg, cornerback Josh Wilson, and safety Dawan Landry.

Many insisted the Ravens were going to take a step back from their 12-4 record in 2010. Instead, Baltimore repeated its 12-4 record, won the AFC North, clinched a first-round bye, and was only a Lee Evans catch away from going to the Super Bowl.

Yes, Newsome and the Ravens have work to do over the next few months, but the key components of a championship team are already in place.

And that’s far more comforting than any free-agent splash you can make in March.