OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who is the team’s most persistent -- although not overly successful -- recruiter, set his sights on one of the highest-profile free agents available.
“OBJ Looks like a Raven to me is all I’m saying,” Humphrey tweeted Monday.
This is quite the endorsement from Humphrey, who once pinned down Odell Beckham Jr. in a 2019 scuffle and appeared to put his hands on Beckham’s throat. But Humphrey’s social media post underscores the point that the Ravens desperately need to add a proven wide receiver. While the national attention has been on quarterback Lamar Jackson’s nonexclusive franchise tag and his ability to negotiate with other teams, Baltimore has to figure out how to provide Jackson -- or whoever lines up under center -- another outside target.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said after the season that adding pass-catchers is a priority -- “the one area that needs to be built is the wide receiver room” -- and the options to upgrade the NFL’s least productive wide receiver group have certainly dwindled a week into free agency. There have been 24 wide receivers signed in free agency, and two others traded -- Brandin Cooks to the Cowboys and DJ Moore to the Bears -- which has reduced what was already a thin class.
The Ravens face a couple of challenges in signing or trading for a wide receiver. Baltimore ranks in the bottom 10 in cap space (around $7 million) because Jackson’s $32 million franchise tag accounts for 15% of its salary cap. The Ravens also have limited draft capital to execute a trade with five total picks, which are tied for the second fewest in the NFL.
Still, here are the best routes remaining for the Ravens to significantly boost their wide receiver group:
Trade for the Arizona Cardinals’ DeAndre Hopkins
Why the Ravens need to make it happen: No disrespect to Steve Smith Sr. or Anquan Boldin, but Hopkins would represent the biggest wide receiver addition in team history. Hopkins, 30, is a five-time Pro Bowl player whose 853 receptions are the most by a player in NFL history prior to their 30th birthday. He is a tough, physical receiver who has excellent hands. Last season, Hopkins was one of seven wide receivers who had one or no drops after being targeted over 90 times.
Biggest hurdle: Earlier this month, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that the Cardinals are seeking a premium Day 2 pick and more for Hopkins. Baltimore doesn’t have a second-round pick this year because it was given up in last year’s trade for middle linebacker Roquan Smith. The Ravens would also need the Cardinals to take a chunk of his $19.45 million salary in 2023.
Sign Odell Beckham Jr.
Why the Ravens need to make it happen: Beckham looked like a top playmaker again before tearing the ACL in his left knee during Super Bowl LVII. In 12 games with the Rams in 2021, he totaled seven touchdowns -- which is what Baltimore’s entire wide receiver group combined for in 17 games last season. Beckham also has a familiarity with new Ravens offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who was Beckham’s playcaller in Cleveland in 2019. “I liked Odell a lot,” Monken said in January. “I liked his skill set, liked his work ethic. Tremendous."
Biggest hurdle: Beckham scoffed on Twitter at receiving a $4 million offer from an unnamed team. But the Ravens realistically can’t offer much more than that. Baltimore’s best selling point is opportunities. Beckham would become one of the Ravens’ top three targets with tight end Mark Andrews and wide receiver Rashod Bateman.
Trade for Denver Broncos’ Courtland Sutton
Why the Ravens need to make it happen: Sutton would bring a much-needed big-bodied target at 6-foot-4 who is in the prime of his career at 27 years old. Plus, Baltimore wouldn’t have to give up as much draft capital as it would for Hopkins. There has been criticism that Sutton hasn’t been the same since tearing an ACL in 2020. Still, over the past two seasons, Sutton has produced 1,605 yards receiving, which are over 600 more than any other Ravens wide receiver during that span.
Biggest hurdle: Baltimore would have to part with more draft picks, and the Ravens have their fewest since 1999. The Ravens would also have to find a way to get Sutton’s $14 million salary under their cap.
The Ravens can look to upgrade at wide receiver with an unrestricted free agent like DJ Chark or T.Y. Hilton. But they are all projected to make over $6 million per year, which would negate the fourth-round compensatory pick Baltimore would receive in 2024 for losing guard Ben Powers. The Ravens could also explore less expensive options like former first-round pick Nelson Agholor, who had a free agent visit with Baltimore on Monday.
With a lack of cap space, Baltimore is one of two teams -- the Jacksonville Jaguars is the other -- not to sign a free agent from another team this offseason. But the quiet Ravens could make some noise if they can land an impact wide receiver.