By Nick Shook
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INDIANAPOLIS — Baltimore’s prolonged issue at receiver is nearing its fourth season, and much of it can be traced back to (but not solely blamed on) Breshad Perriman.
The Ravens chose the speedy wideout out of Central Florida with the 26th pick of the 2015 draft with the idea he’d be the ideal No. 1 receiver with high-end speed capable of stretching a field. His selection came on the heels of the free-agency departure of Torrey Smith, Baltimore’s previous go-to speedster. Everything made sense on paper.
Problem is, it hasn’t worked out. Perriman missed his entire rookie season with a partially torn PCL, enjoyed somewhat of a rebound in 2016 (33 catches, 499 yards, three touchdowns in 16 games), then came crashing back to earth in 2017 (10 catches, 77 yards in 11 games). Baltimore made ends meet by relying more on veteran Steve Smith, but when he retired after 2016, the cupboard only became emptier (outside of Mike Wallace).
The Ravens attempted to restock with a veteran option in Jeremy Maclin, which produced 40 catches for 440 yards and three touchdowns in a fairly forgettable season for him. Left without much else before the upcoming draft, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome wasn’t shy about where Perriman stands in the eyes of the organization.
“It’s up to Breshad,” Newsome said Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “Breshad knows that. It’s up to him, whether he can string together, stack together some practices, because he was doing really, really well during OTAs and training camp last year and then he missed four weeks with a hamstring and I don’t think he ever recovered. But he knows this is his opportunity to make or break being a part of the Ravens.”
On the cusp of his fourth season, Perriman is indeed at the make-or-break point. Baltimore can wash its hands of the selection by choosing not to pick up his fifth-year option, should the wideout produce another similar season. But before they cross that road, they’ll first give him another shot by default, since there isn’t much of a reason to move in the opposite direction.
Maclin, on the other hand, will learn his fate in Baltimore this month. Unlike the other players in Baltimore’s top 10 highest salary-cap hits in 2018, Maclin isn’t producing to match his pay. His 2017 campaign mirrored his final season in Kansas City, where he saw a lesser role. Although the veteran is under contract through 2018, he carries a dead cap number ($2.5 million) that can be swallowed by the Ravens if they so desire.
Newsome said the Ravens will make a decision on Maclin and other similar players in the next two weeks. Maclin’s case is intriguing, though, because Baltimore tends to succeed with free-agent wideouts, at least more than it does via the draft, which Newsome admitted Friday.
“We’re continually trying to study why and why not,” Newsome said. “Hopefully it’ll get us to the point that we can have more success in bringing receivers in, because we’ve had success bringing guys in as free agents. [There is] no doubt about that.”
As for the draft, Newsome was predictably vague, but firm in acknowledging the need to change the position.
“We’re looking for the opportunity to change that room in terms of personnel and the people [who are] in that room,” he said. “We’re not going to leave no stone unturned.”