The Ravens signing wide receiver Jarvis Landry was always going to be a long shot before he received the franchise tag from Miami on Tuesday night.
With limited space under the salary cap this offseason, Baltimore hardly would have been the favorite to land the Dolphins slot man had he made it to the open market. But Miami retaining Landry — or at least forcing teams to talk trades for his services in addition to signing him to a lucrative deal — only reinforces the challenge of finding a No. 1 receiver as those types of talents rarely reach free agency.
A list of the top wide receiver contracts in the NFL shows nearly all have remained with their original teams. According to OverTheCap.com, 15 of the top 18 wide receiver deals in terms of average annual value are with the team that either drafted or signed the player out of college with Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Emmanuel Sanders being the exceptions to the rule.
Jacksonville is also expected to place the franchise tag on the 24-year-old Allen Robinson, which would take the top two projected free-agent receivers off the market. The absence of Landry and Robinson leaves a group of free agents without any bona fide No. 1 types, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting talents who could help Joe Flacco and the NFL’s 29th-ranked passing attack from last season.
The likes of Marqise Lee, Sammy Watkins, Paul Richardson, and Donte Moncrief may carry questions, but each is capable of contributing and an offense needing No. 1 and No. 2 options can’t afford to be too picky in adding pass-catching talent. The problem may end up being the asking price of these second- and third-tier options with the top two talents off the board and many teams looking for pass-catching help on an annual basis.
Regardless of the status of Landry or Robinson, the Ravens were always going to need a multi-pronged attack to improve at wide receiver with Mike Wallace scheduled to hit free agency and many expecting the disappointing Jeremy Maclin to be a cap casualty. General manager Ozzie Newsome will need to add some experience to the position via free agency or trade and invest a draft pick or two in the early rounds of the 2018 draft to truly move the meter at the position.
This year’s draft class may lack slam-dunk first-round picks beyond Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, but other prospects such as Courtland Sutton of SMU, Christian Kirk of Texas A&M, James Washington of Oklahoma State, and even Maryland’s DJ Moore could be enticing if the Ravens either trade back in the opening round or refrain from selecting a wide receiver until the second day of the draft.
After frequently neglecting the position in recent years, the Ravens need to put their best foot forward instead of simply waiting to make a post-June 1 addition or hoping a late-round pick magically pops.
Anything less will likely leave them in an all-too-familiar position in a pivotal season for the future of the organization.