Fantasy mini-camp: Nobody is buying Jacoby Jones as the Ravens WR2, right?
Division: AFC North
Team: Baltimore Ravens
Situation: WR2 competition
Player to watch: TBD
All kinds of notables from the Ravens' Super Bowl winning squad will not be back in Charm City next season. Ray Lewis retired, Ed Reed signed with the Texans and most importantly in terms of the offense, wide receiver Anquan Boldin is now a 49er. For reasons involving salary cap concerns, age and simply long-term planning, Baltimore traded the veteran possession target to San Francisco.
Considering Michael Crabtree's injury, the 49ers are surely glad Boldin is on their side. Looking at the Ravens' current depth chart, some surely wish the 32-year-old had never left..
Hey, in Ozzie Newsome we trust, so there must be a plan in place to offset losing Boldin's sure-handed production and precise route-running ways. That "plan" is simply not that evident right now, not when the best options to replace Boldin and play alongside Torrey Smith include Jacoby Jones and Tandon Doss. Realistically, the true best options may not actually be on the roster.
To the dancing Jones' credit, he turned in a star performance as a Pro Bowl returner last season and tacked on 30 receptions for 406 yards and a touchdown. Despite his third receiver role in Baltimore, the soon-to-be 29-year-old's reception total was only one off his 2011 count with the Texans when he made 10 starts.
The stretch in Houston is what invites skepticism about Jones as a starter. Let's not forget that one reason the Texans jumped on DeAndre Hopkins in the first round this year is because they have been looking for a WR2 for years. Jones was there for many of those lean number two receiver years.
Jones has speed and thus makes for a compelling threat, but he's yet to show he can handle the attention from defenses that comes with the starting gig. Baltimore official's are excited for Jones this year, so we'll see.
Third-year target Tandon Doss offers potential, but little more than that right now after catching seven passes during his first two seasons. The 6-foot-2 Doss is the leading candidate for the third receiver role with the likes of David Reed and Tommy Streeter in the mix.
Also, dynamic as Smith has been during his two seasons (17.1 ypc), there is a difference between running go-routes and being the player Joe Flacco targets in move-the-chain situations. Dennis Pitta may receive the bulk of Boldin's middle-of-the-field targets, but he plays tight end, not receiver.
Combining all of these scenarios screams free agent. Heck, Newsome recently told ESPN that the Ravens "could use a veteran receiver." Veteran does not automatically equal starter, but it would if the Ravens sign free agent Brandon Lloyd (74-911 for Patriots in 2012). More modest options include Steve Breaston, Ramses Barden and Devery Henderson, though they would likely battle Doss more than Jones.
The trade market could heat up once camps open, but right now there is little more than speculation. Considering the Titans' young receiving trio of Kendall Wright, Kenny Britt and rookie Justin Hunter, Nate Washington could be available in trade.
Based on Newsome's track record and acknowledgment that another receiver is needed, expect another move at some point. If the plan comes together, Flacco will have more than one legitimate starting wide receiver to target.