The latest on Ravens “Wide-Receiver-Gate”

March 04, 2010 | Drew Forrester

Maybe this year’s movie involving the Ravens could center on the team’s effort to upgrade their wide receiving corps.

It has the makings of an Oscar winner.

On the eve of the beginning of free agency, here’s what we – at WNST – have learned over the last day or so.  This “report”, if you will, has been compiled by a few of us who have been working the phones, burning up our text service and trying to decipher the sometimes-vague whispers we hear from Owings Mills.

It appears at this stage that the Ravens are preparing to enter the meat of the off-season with last year’s wide receiver department contractually obligated to Baltimore.

The team is currently trying to finalize a multi-year deal with Derrick Mason.  If he does in fact re-sign – “they both want it to happen” one league source told me today – he’s going to be on the roster in 2010.  So pencil him in on the depth chart right now and put it in ink once the deal is announced.

Mark Clayton’s tender-contract-amount hasn’t yet been announced, but it’s expected the Ravens are going to give him the 1st round tender and dare another NFL team to cough up a #1 pick for Clayton. That’s not happening.  Clayton, it would appear, would also be just about guaranteed a roster spot if the team goes through the trouble of giving him a raise and signing him to a new deal.

Donte’ Stallworth, of course, was just signed to a $900,000 deal.  He’s low-risk for the Ravens in that nothing is guaranteed to him besides a jersey number and a locker at training camp, but the Ravens’ brass is privately thrilled to have him on board and expects he’ll make a contribution for them next season.

Demetrius Williams – much to my surprise – was offered the low tender and will report to training camp in the summer with his job – and career – on trial.  Nothing’s guaranteed to Williams.  I’m not really sure why the Ravens didn’t just cut him loose, but as we look at how the wide receiver market unfolds this week, maybe it makes more sense to at least give DWill a low tender and bring him back at a set price.

Kelley Washington is currently not under contract.

So now…what about the household names we’ve been hearing?  Brandon Marshall (Denver), Anquan Boldin (Arizona) and Terrell Owens (free agent).

Well, all three of them might have been affected somewhat by what the Ravens front office and coaching staff saw in Indy last week.  A source says the team was “very impressed” with the wide receiver work-outs and interviews at the Player Combine.  It would be safe to say that perhaps an initial impression of the college WR’s coming out in the draft might have led the team to at least CONSIDER signing Owens as a free agent or pursuing a deal for Marshall or Boldin.  Once the team’s ensemble in Indy saw the WR crop up close and personal, maybe Owens, Marshall and/or Boldin suddenly didn’t seem so mandatory for 2010?

That train of thought takes on even more validity when I hear the club is not interested in giving Denver a first-round pick as compensation for signing Brandon Marshall.

And even though a 3rd round pick for Anquan Boldin doesn’t seem like a big expense to pay, the thought of coughing up a lot of up-front money for a wide receiver – or ANY player for that matter – 12 months before the league might not have a playing season is starting to scare a lot of teams, GMs and Owners.

Owens, meanwhile, was discussed by the Ravens at length over the last couple of weeks and there was “organizational interest” (code word for: some people wanted him, some didn’t) but that interest has waned over the last few days as the team sifts through the Combine evidence and gathers more data that suggests drafting a wide receiver early on (1st/2nd round) is a better path to take than bringing in the 36-year old, 14-year veteran.

Give the Ravens credit for one thing.  They’re clearly evaluating EVERY single option at wide receiver and even spending time meeting, discussing and tossing around the possibilities of bringing in mercurial players like Marshall and Owens.

It would appear, now, that the team is more secure than ever before in sticking with their current group of wide receivers and searching for a pass catching nugget in the upcoming draft.

But…there is, perhaps, one more player out there who might be of interest to Ozzie Newsome and Company.

Kevin Walter is Houston’s #2 wide receiver and he’s a free agent that could be a good fit in Baltimore.  At 6’3″, he would give the team a big target and fill the “red zone” need the club has sorely lacked in recent years.  He’s only 28 years old, has 178 catches in the last three seasons (with 14 TD’s) and would certainly make Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams very nervous as the club would probably go with a Mason-Walter-Stallworth trio and draft a WR or two in 2010 to fill out the #4 spot.

The walls at Owings Mills aren’t saying much over the last few days.  Anytime the folks over there aren’t willing to speak a whole lot (even privately, off the record), that usually means they’re plotting something. That’s not meant as a criticism…or a bad thing…because, after all, their #1 obligation is to improve their football team.  Keeping the media and/or fans informed isn’t part of their day-to-day duty when it comes to strategizing about player signings, draft picks, etc.

But the mere fact that not much sound is coming out of the facility right now tells me they’re up to something.

I assume it’s wide receiver related.

After all, if we – as fans – are tired of talking about it, you can only imagine how exhausted they must be in Owings Mills.

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