One year after leading the Ravens in receptions, Aiken managed just 29 catches in 2016 (eighth on the team) and contributed primarily on special teams. He fell behind Steve Smith Sr., Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman on the depth chart.
"I don't feel like I had the opportunities," Aiken told reporters after signing a one-year deal with the Colts. "I had opportunities when injuries came up and things like that, but it wasn't a true opportunity to say let's help me build off what I did or to get me involved a lot in the offense. It was more, 'We're going to put him in a special-teams role and we'll see where he fits in in the offense.' That's how I felt when I was there."
Aiken, 27, has been fighting for opportunities since entering the NFL in 2011 as an undrafted rookie. He bounced around the practice squads of the Chicago Bears, New England Patriots and Ravens before catching his first pass in 2014.
The next year, Aiken assumed the No. 1 receiver role for the Ravens as Perriman missed the entire season with a knee injury and Smith suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in Week 8. Aiken led the Ravens with 75 catches for 944 yards and five touchdowns and also set a franchise record with nine straight games with at least five receptions.
"If Breshad is healthy, they would've never given me the chance to go out there and do anything," Aiken said. "So his injury came up and that put me in the role and then Steve goes down and then they really didn't have anybody to turn to. Even though I had been doing everything I had to do up until that point, I was kind of like the next man in line.
"I just saw it as an opportunity and I told myself week in and week out that you never know when you're going to get this opportunity again, so make the best of it."
The Ravens wanted to keep Aiken in 2016 so badly that they gave him a second-round tender that paid him $2.5 million. But he never really had a major role in the game plan. Aiken was targeted 50 times, whereas tight end Dennis Pitta was targeted 119 times, Wallace 117 and Smith 103.
"It was definitely frustrating because I felt like I did enough to at least have the opportunity to build off of what I did the year before," Aiken said. "But I really didn't have that. My role was dropped back on the depth chart and then basically special teams. There was nothing that I was doing to say, 'Well, he's not doing this well. He's not doing that well.' That's just what it was."
Aiken said that a big reason for joining the Colts was to catch passes from quarterback Andrew Luck. Aiken should also get more playing time, too.
"I just feel like this opportunity is a little different than the other ones I've had," Aiken said. "Like when I came into Baltimore, I came in as a practice squad guy so I kind of earned my ranks to get to be able to be active and get plays my way. Now, I am coming into a situation where I have kind of proved myself, not to the tier where I know I can be, but I've proven myself enough to where I can come in and compete for a job."
Aiken will see the Ravens again this year. The Colts play in Baltimore in 2017.