Ravens' free-agent 'splash' should begin by targeting Jimmy Graham

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said the team is exploring all options in free agency and the draft to find targets for quarterback Joe Flacco.

"I think that we can make a splash and help us on the way to getting our offense clicking better," Bisciotti said.

One way for the Ravens to get their offense to click is by targeting Seattle Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham when free agency begins on March 14. While a lot of the focus has been on wide receivers like Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon and Sammy Watkins, the addition of Graham makes sense for the NFL's No. 29 offense.

Flacco loves throwing to tight ends, whether it's Todd Heap or Dennis Pitta or even 37-year-old Benjamin Watson (who led Baltimore in receptions this past season). Since entering the NFL in 2008, Flacco has targeted tight ends on 1,090 passes. Only Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Tom Brady have thrown more to tight ends.

Graham is a red zone monster. The 6-foot-7 target scored 10 touchdowns last season (all in the red zone), which led all tight ends. That also doubles the production of the Ravens' tight ends combined (five touchdowns). Graham has had double-digit touchdown years in half of his eight NFL seasons. In comparison, only two players in Ravens history have recorded seasons with double-digit touchdown catches: Michael Jackson (14 in 1996) and Torrey Smith (11 in 2014).

Graham's price tag should work in the Ravens' budget. His projected market worth is a three-year, $21 million contract, according to Spotrac. That's an average of $7 million per season. This seems affordable once you consider Baltimore signed Dennis Pitta to a five-year, $32 million ($6 million per season) deal four years ago. That $7 million average would put him just outside the top 10 for tight ends in 2018.

There has to be some concern with Graham because he's 31 and is coming off a season in which he caught 57 passes for 520 yards receiving (his lowest since his 2010 rookie season) and produced an average of 9.1 yards per catch (a career low). The determination has to be whether this is a result in Graham's skills or Seattle's porous offensive line, which didn't give much time to quarterback Russell Wilson.

The Ravens could be a little wary about spending on another 30-plus target with declining numbers. It didn't work out with wide receiver Jeremy Maclin last season, when Baltimore gave him $6 million guaranteed.

There just aren't a great number of options right now in the tight end free-agent market. Cincinnati's Tyler Eifert is repeatedly hurt. The New York Jets' Austin Seferian-Jenkins has character issues. Philadelphia's Trey Burton only had 23 catches last season. There are other tight ends whose cap savings outweigh their dead money -- Carolina's Greg Olsen, Tennessee's Delanie Walker, Washington's Jordan Reed, Oakland's Jared Cook and Detroit's Eric Ebron -- but it's unknown who will be salary-cap cuts.

Baltimore has to address tight end as much as wide receiver this offseason. Watson is a free agent and is considering retirement. Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle are better blockers than pass-catchers. Vince Mayle is more of a special teams player. And Darren Waller is coming off a year-long suspension.

The pressure is on to land a pass-catching tight end, and there have been few better than Graham. Since 2011, Graham has the second-most receptions with 525 (trailing only Jason Witten) and second-most touchdown catches with 64 (behind only Rob Gronkowski) for tight ends.

"He’s one of the best tight ends to ever play the game," Wilson said of Graham last December. "There’s nothing he can’t do and he strikes a fire in us."

That sounds perfect for a Ravens passing game that has failed to heat up in recent years.