The Ravens found success with Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith Sr. Who could be the next veteran receiver making his way to Baltimore? The Ravens might only have to look down the road to find him.
With the start of free agency still over a month away (March 9), Washington Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon is perhaps the best free-agent fit for Baltimore. When general manager Ozzie Newsome mentioned last month about the need to "find a complementary receiver," the first receiver that came to mind was Garcon.
He's a hard-nosed possession receiver with dependable hands who would pair nicely with the speed of Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman. He will fill the void of Smith in making the tough, contested catches and becoming the trusted go-to receiver for Flacco.
Newsome was asked at the end of the season whether the Ravens would once again target a veteran receiver in free agency.
"Some of the success that we have had here is going out -- whether it is by trade or free agency or cap casualty -- and getting a veteran receiver that still has some juice left, that still has the ability to play at a high level," Newsome said. "When I was talking about getting a complementary receiver, that is what I was referring to. It does not necessarily have to come through the draft, but it can come through other means. We definitely will be pursuing that this year.”
Garcon, who turns 31 before the start of the season, definitely has some juice left. He led Washington with 79 catches and 1,041 yards last season. He also delivers consistency. Since 2013, he has the sixth-most catches in the NFL (332) and has averaged 979 yards receiving.
This wouldn't be as big of a splash as signing Chicago's Alshon Jeffery, the top receiver available in free agency, or even the New York Jets' Brandon Marshall, who is a potential salary cap cut. But when have the Ravens made such a signing? Baltimore can't spend its limited cap space on one player when there are so many other needs to fill.
Garcon likely represents a more trusted signing. Jeffery has missed 11 games the last two season, and Garcon hasn't been sidelined for a game since 2012. Marshall has a history of domestic violence issues (which would likely cross him off the Ravens' list), and Garcon has never been arrested or charged with a crime.
Whether Garcon wants to leave is another issue. Garcon told ESPN at the end of last month that he would like to stay with the Redskins, but he hasn't been contacted by the team about a new contract.
"I'm just waiting to get a phone call," Garcon said.
Another option for the Ravens is to re-sign Kamar Aiken, who is an unrestricted free agent. Baltimore saw how Aiken stepped up as the leading receiver in 2015 after Smith suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. But Aiken might want to look elsewhere after watching his role on the offense disappear last season.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked whether the Ravens need to bring in that type of possession receiver who excels at running intermediate routes.
"Yes, we need that guy -- that type of guy you are talking about," Harbaugh said at the end of the season. "I hate to label it ‘possession,’ because I like for the guy to be fast, have great body control and great athleticism. But sometimes you say you don’t think that that is what that means. We need a certain type of receiver, and I think we are targeting that kind of guy.”