Tight Ends (4):
As much as General Manager Ozzie Newsome likes acquiring Tight Ends, I don’t think any of us would have been surprised had the Ravens added more TE depth during the Draft.
Even without doing so, the team returns four Tight Ends that all finished the 2010 season on the active roster. The team can certainly expect solid production from Heap-as long as he’s healthy. (How many times have you said/heard/read/written that in your life?)
The wild card in the group is Dickson (pictured above), who showed some real vertical and horizontal explosiveness during the 2010 season but lacked consistency. His size and speed make him a dynamic offensive target, but he has to eliminate drops and maintain focus and drive.
Pitta seems to be a pretty safe bet to stay on the roster in 2011. He didn’t show much in 2010, but the team still views him as part of the “tight end of the future” solution. He’ll be 26 before the season begins, and his maturity should help him see more of the field offensively and via special teams.
It is hard to imagine the Ravens opening the 2011 season with all four tight ends on the active roster, so Drew will likely have to bump someone to earn a spot. That being said, the team clearly felt better about him in his second season than his rookie campaign. If he continues to develop, they would be hard pressed to part ways with a former draft pick.
Wide Receivers (11):
T.J. Houshmandzadeh (UFA)
Donte’ Stallworth (UFA)
The Ravens are in decent shape with their top three receivers. They know what they have in Boldin and Mason-as both are capable of being productive but no longer capable of stretching the field or truly offering offensive explosiveness.
This is where Smith (pictured above) enters. The team’s 2nd round pick out of Maryland was described by Newsome as being able to “peel the top off a defense”, and that is exactly the role Smith is expected to play.
If Smith pans out early on the way the Ravens hope he will, it would not be surprising at all to see him wide as the team’s #2 receiver and Mason in the slot or playing a 3rd receiver role a bit more often. (Just don’t tell Derrick. He probably wouldn’t handle that well.)
Doss (the team’s 4th round pick out of Indiana) is probably a fairly safe bet to make the roster. The team likes what he brings to the table, and he should be able to carve a niche for himself.
Houshmandzadeh and Stallworth are both expected to be gone. Stallworth (due mostly to injury) was never able to find a role for himself in the offense and wouldn’t likely want another shot elsewhere. Houshmandzadeh was never happy being the team’s third receiver. He’d probably be the fourth (or fifth) if he were to return.
Of course, we’re assuming there’s a market for either of those two receivers. There’s no guarantee that’s the case.
Behind those six, there are five players fighting for likely one or two jobs. Of that group, Smith and Reed have team experience. Smith is a solid (arguably standout) special teams player. Reed showed some promising signs as a kick returner last season. That being said-neither has been able to do anything offensively to this point in their respective careers.
Hardy stands out amongst the group because of his size (6’5″). The team needs a legitimate jump ball/red zone target. While Hardy was never able to be reliable in the role for the Buffalo Bills, there still has to be hope his size could transition to on the field success.
Jones has a background in the league, but not a particularly successful one. It’s hard to see a way that he makes the roster barring significant injury elsewhere/incredible improvement from him.
This is probably a “make it or break it” year for Harper. He found his way to the active roster last year, but has never made the active roster out of Camp. It’s hard to imagine that changing this year. Harper has played the role of “practice squad size receiver” well, but the team might look to an undrafted free agent this year to fill the role instead.