The Baltimore Ravens reportedly offered Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster a one-year contract worth $9 million that also included $4 million in incentives. The guaranteed value was only $1 million more than what he agreed to with Pittsburgh, but without knowledge of what the incentives are, it’s hard to ascertain how likely he would have been to earn some of that extra $4 million.
But this isn’t about comparing Smith-Schuster’s various offers and whether or not his decision to stay with the Steelers was really about love for the team. This is about the Ravens’ legitimate efforts to land a wide receiver. They had also previously made a push for Kenny Golladay, who signed a big deal with the New York Giants.
More recently, they just hosted Sammy Watkins, though he left without signing a deal. It’s unclear if that was a decision on their part, or if Watkins simply wanted to hear out the other teams with whom he had lined up meetings. Golladay cancelled a visit that he had previously scheduled after signing with New York.
More times than not, when a FA leaves your facility without signing a contract, he’s not coming back. We’ll see if that’s the case with Sammy Watkins, but sounds like Ravens liked what they saw/heard. Door is certainly still open there although Watkins set now for visit w/Colts
— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) March 23, 2021
One of the narratives that has developed over the past year or two was the idea that wide receivers will not want to play for the Ravens because of their focus on the running game, which includes the quarterback, Lamar Jackson, who has the three highest totals of rushing attempts of any quarterback in a single season in NFL history—in his first three seasons.
The narrative was strong enough that it has gotten back to the Ravens in the form of reporters asking head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Eric DeCosta about it, and whether or not they had any concerns about their ability to attract free agents at the position.
It’s understandable, though, why Smith-Schuster would have turned down a deal that was worth a maximum of $14 million in such a weak market. It’s reasonable that Golladay signed on for the $18 million per year that he got.
Given their interest in some of the biggest available names, however, it seems clear that the Ravens really would like to secure the talents of a veteran wide receiver in free agency. We’ll see what happens for Watkins, as he meets with other teams, but there are some other possibilities.
T.Y. Hilton is one, the long-time member of the Indianapolis Colts. They could sign Antonio Brown, about whom they have talked openly in the past. But after that, and Watkins, you’re really running pretty thin in terms of who remains available. Which means the Ravens had better hope they have better luck with the position in the draft than they normally do.