Ravens' failure to help Joe Flacco at receiver a huge head-scratcher

Baltimore Ravens officials talked about the importance of upgrading the supporting cast around quarterback Joe Flacco since the end of last season. General manager Ozzie Newsome even said the Ravens need to find "a complementary receiver."

Nearly a week into free agency, the biggest question from what has been a productive start for the Ravens is this: Where's that new wide receiver?

Baltimore has watched the market for wide receivers essentially dry up, and what makes it even more perplexing is the fact that many of these pass-catchers received affordable deals. Unlike the crazy spending for offensive tackles, productive wide receivers such as Alshon Jeffery (one year, $9.5 million), Kenny Britt (an average of $8.1 million) Brandon Marshall (an average of $5 million), Terrelle Pryor (one year, $6 million) and Torrey Smith (an average of $5 million) were moderately priced and could be had for short-term contracts.

This is a position that should be a priority for the Ravens. Baltimore wide receivers have caught the seventh-fewest touchdowns in the past two seasons (23). Instead, one can argue the Ravens focused more on defense by giving contracts that average more than $8.5 million per season to a nose tackle and safety.

While it's still a long way until Baltimore kicks off the regular season -- 180 days, to be exact -- there isn't anyone left in free agency who can significantly upgrade a wide receiver group that will be without its top producer over the past three seasons. Steve Smith Sr., who retired at the end of last season, accounted for one-quarter of Baltimore's receptions by wide receivers since 2013.

Kamar Aiken is the best remaining option because he thrived in this role in 2015 (75 catches for 944 yards), he's familiar with Flacco and he's only 28. The Ravens, though, didn't give him much of a vote of confidence last season when they dropped him on the depth chart and put him back on special teams.

The nostalgic pick is to sign Anquan Boldin, a key part of the Ravens' 2012 Super Bowl team who was unceremoniously traded a month after hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. But Boldin, 36, was held to a career-worst 584 yards and an 8.7-yard per catch average last season for Detroit.

The other choices come with red flags. Victor Cruz managed 39 catches last season after playing only six games the previous two years due to injuries. Michael Floyd is currently on home detention after pleading guilty to one charge of second offense extreme DUI and unless he receives permission, he won't be able to report to his new team until June 17.

The Ravens could think about trading for a wide receiver, given the scarcity in free agency. The Eagles might be open to dealing Jordan Matthews after they signed Jeffery and Smith in free agency. But trades have been a hit (Boldin) or miss (Lee Evans and Chris Givens) proposition for Baltimore.

Right now, Flacco only has two receivers on the roster that caught over 10 passes last season. Mike Wallace produced his first 1,000-yard season since 2011, and Breshad Perriman finished with 33 receptions after enduring injuries to both knees in his first 14 months with the team.

The Ravens' other wide receivers (Chris Moore, Michael Campanaro, Chris Matthews, Keenan Reynolds, Vince Mayle and Kenny Bell) are young and unproven. They've combined for 197 career receiving yards.

The emphasis should be improving the outside weapons for Flacco, who ranks No. 33 in passer rating (82.5) since winning the Super Bowl. In the AFC North, Ben Roethlisberger can throw all over the field to Antonio Brown, and Andy Dalton can count on A.J. Green to make game-changing plays. Flacco doesn't have the same luxury.

By not adding one of the top free-agent wide receivers, the Ravens are putting more pressure on themselves to find one early in the draft. With the No. 16 overall pick, Baltimore could have its pick of the top wide receiver (or, at the very least, two of them). Western Michigan's Corey Davis has the best ball skills, Clemson's Mike Williams has the prototypical height-speed for the position and Washington's John Ross has jaw-dropping speed after running the fastest 40-yard dash in the history of the NFL combine.

The Ravens have taken steps in the right direction to improve last season's 8-8 team. Baltimore kept nose tackle Brandon Williams, the top free agent in ESPN's rankings, and landed Tony Jefferson, the best safety in free agency. The Ravens also added a playmaker in the backfield in Danny Woodhead.

But, at this point, Baltimore has dropped the ball when it comes to wide receiver.