Ravens hesitant to dive into free-agent wide receiver market

February 25, 2012 | Luke Jones

At the organization’s season-ending press conference a few weeks ago, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome identified a need to upgrade the wide receiver position as one of his biggest priorities in the off-season.

But with other positions to address and only so much salary cap room with which to work, it appears the organization will not depend on a free-agent market full of talented wide receivers to acquire a premier receiver to move to the top of the depth chart with veteran Anquan Boldin and young Torrey Smith.

NFL teams have until March 5 to potentially use their franchise tag to retain top-notch talent, but elite receivers such as San Diego’s Vincent Jackson, New Orleans’ Marques Coltston, and Kansas City’s Dwayne Bowe do not appear to be on the Ravens’ radar should they make it to the open market beginning March 13. While anything team executives and coaches say should be taken with a grain of salt with free agency still over two weeks away, coach John Harbaugh doesn’t foresee the Ravens making a major splash to acquire an elite receiver on the open market.

“I don’t know how realistic it is, but we’re definitely going to explore it,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t see us spending high numbers on a wide receiver. We just don’t have the cap room, and it wouldn’t be a smart way to distribute the money.”

Of course, his statement doesn’t completely rule out the possibility and the organization will likely be interested in a second tier of free-agent wideouts that would include Indianapolis veteran Reggie Wayne and New Orleans’ Robert Meachem, but it appears the Ravens will rely on the draft if they want to acquire a receiver with huge upside.

Newsome remains open to using the team’s 29th pick in the first round to draft a wide receiver, and a number of attractive prospects could be available such as Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd, LSU’s Reuben Randle, and Mohamed Sanu of Rutgers.

The possibility of potentially pursuing Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace appears highly unlikely based on Newsome’s comments in Indianapolis on Friday afternoon. Wallace is a restricted free agent, meaning the Ravens would not only have to sign the speedy wideout to a contract too rich for Pittsburgh to match but they would also have to to forfeit their first-round pick to bring him to Baltimore.

The Ravens have always valued their first-round choices over the years, which isn’t difficult to understand considering how successful they’ve been in finding prime talent that comes at an affordable price. Paying a premium price for Wallace in addition to forfeiting their top pick just doesn’t sound appetizing to Newsome.

“The problem with going after restricted free agents is, at that point, the player and the agent have the leverage,” said Newsome, who was not asked specifically about Wallace nor did he mention him by name. “You have to do a deal that you don’t think the other team will match. Then, giving up a first-round pick and with the new rules, the amount of money you have to pay over the first four years is not like it was on the previous [collective bargaining agreement].”

The Ravens will continue to evaluate all possible options and aren’t going to tip their hand this early in the process, so nothing can be ruled out at this point.

“If you get the right player – like Ozzie says – for the right price, that’d be something we’d be looking at,” Harbaugh said.

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