Franchise tag developments bode well for Ravens’ wide receiver search

March 06, 2018 | Luke Jones

The Ravens are one of several teams in the mix to acquire Miami wide receiver Jarvis Landry, but two other accomplished receivers are on track to hit free agency after not receiving the franchise tag on Tuesday.

Jacksonville’s Allen Robinson and Los Angeles Rams wideout Sammy Watkins were not tagged and will hit the open market next week unless their respective teams sign them to long-term contracts. The Watkins news wasn’t a big surprise, but many assumed Robinson would be tagged despite the former Penn State product coming back from an ACL injury suffered in the 2017 season opener.

If fully healthy, the 6-foot-3 Robinson could bring the most upside of any free-agent receiver after he caught 14 touchdowns and posted 1,400 receiving yards in 2015 while playing with maligned Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. His numbers slipped to six touchdowns and 883 receiving yards a year later, but the 24-year-old represents the kind of red-zone and jump-ball threat quarterback Joe Flacco has sorely lacked in years.

Watkins, the fourth overall pick of the 2014 draft, had over 2,000 receiving yards combined in his first two seasons with Buffalo, but a foot injury derailed his 2016 season and he was traded to the Rams last summer. In 15 games in 2017, he caught 39 passes for 593 yards and eight touchdowns.

Landry has easily been the most consistent of the trio, but Robinson and Watkins hitting the market could certainly impact the overall demand — and subsequent asking price from the Dolphins — in trade talks. Their presence would also figure to impact the cost of a variety of second- and third-tier free-agent options such as Marqise Lee, Paul Richardson, and Donte Moncrief.

Regardless of which receivers the Ravens ultimately target, more quality on the open market is good news for a roster in need of at least two meaningful additions at the position. With disappointing veteran Jeremy Maclin likely to be cut and leading wide receiver Mike Wallace scheduled to hit free agency, the Ravens will need to be aggressive to improve the league’s 29th-ranked passing attack from last season.

And though many are clamoring for Baltimore to address the position in next month’s draft, the need for both experience and upside makes it obvious that Newsome should be looking at the free-agent and trade markets before the final weekend in April.