The Ravens invested a total of $15 million of guaranteed money into their wide receiver project, the latest addition being Willie Snead after the New Orleans Saints reportedly declined to match the offer sheet.
Baltimore is also placing plenty of confidence in Snead, Michael Crabtree and John Brown, all of whom are coming off arguably the worst seasons of their careers. They combined for 1,009 yards receiving last year, a total that was topped by 11 wide receivers.
Crabtree managed 618 yards with the Oakland Raiders, his fewest receiving yards for a full season in his nine-year career. Brown totaled career lows with 21 receptions and 299 yards receiving with the Arizona Cardinals. And Snead was limited to personal worsts with eight catches for 92 yards.
The Ravens were compelled to change after struggling with one of the worst passing attacks in franchise history. Baltimore ranked No. 29 in the NFL in passing (189 yards per game) and last in yards per attempt (5.7).
Baltimore's wide receivers produced the fourth-fewest receiving yards in the NFL last season with 3,235. Only the Chicago Bears, Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts managed fewer. The Ravens parted ways with receivers Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin and Michael Campanaro as a result.
Baltimore's hope is that Crabtree will bounce back after catching passes from a banged-up Derek Carr last season. In 2015 and 2016, Crabtree had over 80 receptions and 900 yards.
"Just the physicality that he brings, and I think his route running, too, with how much strength he runs with -- and he seems to bring a lot of those things," Flacco said. "You can tell just by throwing with him a couple times [that] he’s smooth."
Brown replaces Wallace as the big-play receiver deep downfield. He ranked No. 9 among wide receivers in 2015 and 2016 with a 15.4-yard average. His biggest problem has been staying healthy.
"With John, a couple years ago when he really came on the radar, you got to see just what he can do, game-breaking with his speed and all that," Flacco said. "I almost hate to bring up his speed, just because I really do think he’s a really good wide receiver. After talking to our quarterbacks coach, James [Urban] and a couple guys from around the building, they really, really believe that he’s the real deal. I’m excited about him."
With Snead, the Ravens are banking on him once again being a top slot receiver after getting out of Sean Payton's doghouse. Snead was targeted only 16 times last season after being thrown 205 passes in 2015 and 2016.
All of these additions don't preclude the Ravens from selecting a wide receiver in the first round of Thursday's draft. Crabtree's deal is structured in a way that he might be in Baltimore for only one year, and Brown joined the Ravens on a one-year deal.
To address the big picture of Baltimore's wide receiver position, the Ravens could take Maryland's D.J. Moore or Alabama's Calvin Ridley, especially if they trade down from the No. 16 overall pick. In the past six drafts, the Ravens have used a pick in the first three rounds on a wide receiver only once (Breshad Perriman in 2015).