Recently, there’s been some chatter linking the Ravens to a couple experienced, big-name wide receivers.
You’ve heard plenty about one of them. This week, Plaxico Burress made his exodus from Oneida Correctional Facility, and he will be available for NFL teams to bid on once the lockout is lifted.
Burress is a physical freak; a 6-foot-5, 232 lb. receiver who can stretch the field and out-muscle defensive backs for the football. He also is 34 years old, has been described in the past as a less-than-ideal teammate, and is coming off a 21-month prison sentence.
Smith is a burner, a four-time Pro Bowler, and a big-play threat. He’s also 32, has had his own off-field issues, and his numbers are trending downward.
From some fans’ perspective, the thought of one of these star players throwing on a Ravens jersey and lining up across from Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason might get the football juices flowing again, even during this extended lockout.
In reality, however, the Ravens should - and I have to expect, will - kindly pass on these two wide receivers.
GM Ozzie Newsome has been down this road before, and as recently as last year. In need of wide receivers, Newsome signed two aging, veteran wide receivers and attempted to slot them in behind Boldin and Mason on the depth chart.
Neither T.J. Houshmandzadeh nor Donte’ Stallworth saw much playing time, and when they did get on the field, neither made a significant impact.
There’s no need to relive that script again this year. The Ravens improved their depth at wide receiver by drafting Torrey Smith (22 years old) and Tandon Doss (21) back in April. They signed the big-bodied James Hardy (still just 25) to a reserve/futures contract this winter, and also will return David Reed (24) and Marcus Smith (26) from the active roster last year.
Beyond all the off-field headaches that could come with adding either Burress or Steve Smith, the Ravens have to consider the impact either of those two would have on the young receivers on the roster. Bring in a Burress or a Smith, and you’ll box the draft picks, Hardy, Reed and others out of playing time.
Add Burress, and Hardy need not even be on the team. His role as the “big, physical playmaker” would be filled with Plax’s signing.
Trade for Steve Smith, and both Torrey Smith and Reed get less of a chance to show off their speed while the veteran swipes the reps.
It’s time for the Ravens to give these younger receivers a chance to progress and fill in the depth chart behind the one-two punch of Boldin and Mason.
Acquiring Burress or Steve Smith would only further stunt the growth of the young guys, and at what cost? Given where both of those veterans are in their careers, there’s a good chance they would end up in the same spot Houshmandzadeh and Stallworth were in last year - battling for playing time and making minimal contributions on Sundays.