Ravens open their wallet in lucrative wide receiver market

March 13, 2018 | Luke Jones

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome vowed to make changes to the wide receiver room in his final season in charge, resulting in a surprising opening to free agency.

After failing to land a top-tier talent such as Jarvis Landry or Allen Robinson, the Ravens have opened their wallet to spend significant money in one of the most lucrative markets for seemingly-ordinary wide receivers we’ve ever seen. Whether that’s a smart decision is open for debate.

The reported one-year, $5 million agreement with former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John Brown at least involves a wideout who recorded a 1,000-yard season earlier in his career, but the four-year, $29 million deal with $14.5 million guaranteed reportedly struck with former Washington wide receiver Ryan Grant was immediately met with shock and even confusion Tuesday night. Grant did set career highs with 45 catches for 573 yards and four touchdowns in 2017, but the 27-year-old has made just 84 receptions for 985 yards and six touchdowns over his four NFL seasons combined.

Is that production worthy of one of the richest wide receiver contracts in team history? Of course, that’s not exactly an extensive list of deals as the Ravens have historically been very thrifty at the position, but this was an organization lacking salary cap space, making the Grant signing even more puzzling.

At such a price, are these two even as good as Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin, let alone better?

The 6-foot, 204-pound Grant was a favorite of Washington head coach Jay Gruden and is considered a good route-runner with the ability to play outside or in the slot, but he’s never had as much as a 100-yard game in his career. A 2014 fifth-round pick from Tulane, Grant graded 57th among qualified wide receivers by Pro Football Focus this past season and ranked 60th among outside receivers in Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 project, the latter of which labeling him an “ideal” No. 4 receiver.

The Ravens brass clearly sees substantial potential to award him that type of a deal, but scrutiny will understandably until Grant proves critics wrong.

Meanwhile, Brown provides some intriguing upside if he can stay healthy after he caught 65 passes for 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns in 2015. The speedy 5-foot-11, 179-pound receiver has averaged 14.5 yards per catch in his career, but he was diagnosed with the sickle-cell trait in 2016 and has been slowed by various injuries over the last two seasons.

In 2017, Brown played in only 10 games and caught 21 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns. The former third-round pick from Pittsburg State has caught 173 passes for 2,515 yards and 17 touchdowns in his four-year career.

For Brown, a high ceiling is there, but there’s also a low floor because of health concerns.

With these expected signings at the start of free agency, the Ravens wide receiver room has certainly changed as Newsome promised. Whether it’s truly any better is the fair question.