Lamar Jackson needs a No. 1 receiver, but John Harbaugh won't beg one to join Ravens

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh acknowledged that landing a big, physical target for quarterback Lamar Jackson would be “awesome.”

But how does the NFL’s last-place passing attack lure a No. 1 wide receiver like Allen Robinson or Kenny Golladay to Baltimore?

"I’m not going to beg anybody to be here,” Harbaugh said during Wednesday’s end-of-the-season news conference. "I’m not a college coach and I don’t have to recruit anybody. ‘You want to win? You want to win? You want to be a part of a great organization, and you want to be a part of a team, and you want to love coming to work every single day, and you’re a football player and you love football? If you’re all about stats, and numbers, and your stat line, and how many balls you catch, necessarily, and that’s all you care for -- then there’s a lot of other teams you can go play for, and we’ll be looking forward to lining up against you.’”

For a receiver like Robinson, a decision to sign with Baltimore could come down to whether he values wins more than catches. In the past two seasons with the Chicago Bears, Robinson has caught 200 passes total, while all of the Ravens’ wide receivers have combined for 252 catches.

But Robinson, 27, has had only one winning season in six full seasons played. The Ravens have had four straight winning seasons and have reached the playoffs in each of the past three seasons.

Even if Robinson is willing to become the prime target for Jackson, Harbaugh is unsure about another factor -- cost. Robinson averaged $14 million per season on the last contract he signed in 2018. The Ravens could be tight against the salary cap if it decreases because of the pandemic.

"If we could bring a, ‘quote unquote,’ Anquan Boldin in here, let’s do it,” Harbaugh said. "Now, can we afford it, and what are the resources from other things that we need? That’s the details that we have to figure out. But I think a big, physical receiver would be awesome for us.”

Over the past decade, no Baltimore wide receiver has caught more than 80 passes in a season. Last season, Baltimore’s wide receivers totaled 137 receptions (18 fewer than any other team) and 1,729 yards receiving (the only team that failed to reach 2,000 yards).

Ravens wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown expressed his displeasure immediately after the season about Baltimore’s unbalanced offense. The Ravens are the first offense to rank first in rushing and last in passing since the 2006 Atlanta Falcons.

"We’re a lot better than probably what people think we are, and the numbers will vouch for that,” Harbaugh said. "I’m not going to go through a bunch of different stats, but I have them here in front of me. DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) and things like that, I think we’re pretty good, but we need to be more efficient. We need to be better. So, I agree with Marquise in that sense; balance in the sense of our success with it and just keep building on it.”

Other highlights of Harbaugh’s 45-minute news conference:

  • Harbaugh spoke to Jackson on Tuesday and said the reigning NFL MVP “feels a lot better.” Jackson suffered a concussion in Saturday’s playoff loss in Buffalo and missed the entire fourth quarter.

  • Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and tight end Nick Boyle (knee) are expected to be return for training camp after suffering season-ending injuries in the middle of the season. Cornerback Tavon Young (knee) should be available for spring workouts, if they occur. “My understanding is those guys should be in good shape, across the board,” Harbaugh said.

  • Strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders will remain in his current role. Saunders was suspended for a month after his violation of COVID-19 protocol led to one of the biggest outbreaks in professional sports. Saunders apologized to numerous players and coaches when he returned, according to Harbaugh. "We haven’t had a lot of injures, and there’s a reason for that, and our strength and conditioning program is a big part of that,” Harbaugh said. "So, he hit the ground running when he got back for the last couple weeks of the season.”