With free-agent receiver Malcom Floyd opting to re-sign with the San Diego Chargers Friday afternoon, the Ravens can only go back to the drawing board regarding veteran options to complement veteran Anquan Boldin.
The 30-year-old receiver is currently flanked by rookie draft picks Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss in the starting offense through the first week of training camp. After the 6-foot-5 Floyd passed on the Ravens’ strong interest in favor of a reported two-year, $5 million contract to remain in San Diego, coach John Harbaugh remains open to Baltimore adding another veteran receiver.
“That’s a possibility,” Harbaugh said. “We’re not certainly going to shy away from adding players. I think we’d be happy to bring in a really good player, so we possibly have room for one.”
But exactly who is out there? The logical choice would be the recently-released Derrick Mason, but the 37-year-old has been linked to the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans and may feel jaded after an abrupt release and the Ravens’ apparent courting of Floyd. And a legitimate — if not, unsettling — argument exists that the Ravens need to move on from the veteran receiver in order for the passing game to grow in Joe Flacco’s fourth season.
Harbaugh has been in contact with Mason via text messaging, but the coach hasn’t spoken to the receiver since before his visit with the New York Jets on Thursday.
The rest of the market looks even bleaker with injury red flags all over the place such as Terrell Owens, Giants wideout Steve Smith, the recently-released Jerricho Cotchery, and former Raven Mark Clayton. T.J. Houshmandzadeh remains a free agent, but the Ravens have shown no interest in bringing back the disgruntled No. 3 receiver from a season ago.
Barring an unexpected trade or the unlikely chance of enticing an aging Randy Moss to reconsider his retirement, the Ravens may need to take a leap of faith that Smith and Doss can adjust quickly to the pro game.
“I think it’s going to go through the season with these guys,” Harbaugh said. “They’re going to be on the team, they’re going to be playing, and it’s going to be interesting to see how they handle the whole season.”
Conventional wisdom suggests receivers struggle in their first season, but some rookies have flourished in recent years such as Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams (65 catches, 964 yards, 11 touchdowns in 2010) and Indianapolis’ Austin Collie (60 catches, 676 yards, seven touchdowns in 2009), both of whom were selected in the fourth round of the NFL draft.
For what it’s worth over the first week of training camp, Smith and Doss have both made impressive plays against the starting defense and appear to belong — at least as much as you can on the practice field. Doss has looked polished while running routes and catches nearly everything thrown his way. And after being slowed by a hamstring injury earlier in the week, Smith turned in his best practice of the summer on Thursday, making a spectacular sideline catch against press coverage.
“We’re not going to lower the bar with these guys,” Harbaugh said. “The bar’s high, they knew what they were getting into when we drafted them. We did draft them because we thought they were guys that would get up to speed quickly.”
Judging from the lack of attractive veteran options currently on the market, they’ll need to.
Veterans day (off)
A number of veteran players were given the day off on Friday including Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Jarret Johnson, Haloti Ngata, Brendon Ayanbadejo, and Domonique Foxworth. The veterans’ respite came a day after safety Ed Reed sat out Thursday’s workout.
“We’ll definitely pull some guys out as we go, kind of when needed,” said Harbaugh, who pointed out how these players had been practicing the entire week. “Ed [Reed] took some time yesterday, and those guys today.”
The move was reminiscent of the “30-and-over” club of past training camps, except Suggs, Ngata, and Johnson (who turns 30 on Aug. 14) do not fall under that mantra. Foxworth, 27, may have been given the day off to rest his surgically-repaired knee that’s given him trouble in the early stages of training camp and throughout the offseason.
Tight end Ed Dickson (undisclosed) did not practice in the shells-and-shorts practice. Others missing included cornerback Jimmy Smith (groin), receivers James Hardy (hamstring) and Rodney Bradley, and running back Matt Lawrence.
There were no changes to the active physically-unable-to-perform list as offensive tackle Ramon Harewood (knees), receiver David Reed (wrist), defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (knee), and long snapper Morgan Cox (knee) did not practice on Friday.
Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from John Harbaugh, Tom Zbikowski, and Haruki Nakamura as well as Marshal Yanda’s conversation with WNST’s Glenn Clark immediately following Friday’s practice.