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Biggest need the Ravens still must address after first week of NFL free agency

The Baltimore Ravens are one of the stranger teams in the NFL these days. The powerhouse AFC North franchise just can’t seem to get it done at the most crucial times. Even with quarterback Lamar Jackson turning this team into a perennial playoff contender after winning a NFL MVP Award and propelling Baltimore to the best record in the league just two seasons ago, the Ravens have yet to truly get over the hump come postseason time.

After being ousted from Super Bowl contention in the divisional round back in 2019-20 as the Tennessee Titans marched into Baltimore and stunned the 14-2 top-seeded Ravens, the AFC North franchise did finally get some revenge in the wild card round in 2020-21.

With the Titans initially defeating the Ravens in overtime during this past regular season, Baltimore then eliminated Tennessee from the playoffs before promptly losing to the surging Buffalo Bills in the divisional round.

With Jackson still in place, soon-to-be second-year running back J.K. Dobbins being paired with a veteran presence in Gus Edwards, the Ravens offense is certainly headed in the right direction. With a stout defense paired with what could be a dynamic offensive attack as well, there is still one major piece of the puzzle missing in Baltimore — a veteran wide receivers to aid Jackson’s efforts.

Although the Ravens are lucky enough to employ the tight end tandem of Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle with the former really coming into his own as one of the best pass catchers at his position in the entire league, it is still not enough firepower for Jackson to rely on. Because Andrews is so dominant over the middle, teams have been able to use double coverage to hinder his production, which often leads Jackson to scrambling around and attempting to make some magic happen out of thin air.

On the other hand, the team’s wide receiver core is barely formidable at this point with the speedy Marquise “Hollywood” Brown serving as the Ravens top target down field.

However, despite his speed, Brown has been wildly inconsistent ever since the Ravens selected him in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft out of Oklahoma — especially last season.

In addition to Andrews, Boyle and Brown, the Ravens are working with the duo of Miles Boykin and Devin Duvernay at wide receiver heading into 2021-22 with the latter serving as more of a special teams ace at the end of the day.

With that being the case, the Ravens absolutely must sign a veteran wide out via free agency before this offseason comes to a close.

As it stands today, the Ravens can take this search in one of two directions. The first would be to find a slot receiver that can take some of the workload off both Jackson and Andrews.

With Andrews serving as a massive red zone target in addition to going over the middle quite often, adding a slot receiver who isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty would make life so much easier for the entire Ravens offense. The best options presently available on such a front include veterans Danny Amendola and Adam Humphries. While both players can no doubt serve as reliable targets for Jackson while patrolling the middle of the field, the downside here is that both are also quite injury prone. If Amendola and Humphries could stay healthy for the Ravens, either would be an upgrade from what Baltimore is currently working with.

Secondly, the Ravens can look to add another downfield threat with Andrews left to pick up the slack in the slot and in the red zone. With the aforementioned Brown possessing elite speed, he is definitely a solid home run target for Jackson — when he decides to show up, that is. Adding another player of this nature wouldn’t be the worst idea as a veteran like T.Y. Hilton, Antonio Brown, Sammy Watkins or DeSean Jackson could fill this void.

Due to the fact that the Ravens continue to serve as a legitimate player contender on an annual basis at this point, even while playing in the always competitive AFC North division alongside the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore should be desirable free agent landing spot for veteran players looking to capture that ever-elusive Lombardi Trophy and Super Bowl title. It would be highly surprising to see the Ravens pass up on the opportunity to bring in some additional talent at the wide receiver position before this offseason eventually comes to a close.