Wide receiver has been a position of need for the Baltimore Ravens for the past two, arguably three offseasons and the franchise haven't had a true number one wide out in years. They've tried to address the position in previous drafts, selecting Marquise "Hollywood" Brown with the 25th overall pick in 2019 and Devin Duvernay with the 92nd overall pick in 2020, but neither player has been the answer Baltimore hoped they'd be. Brown has improved, at least statistically, from his rookie season but was still pretty mediocre with 769 yards receiving and an average of just 48.1 receiving yards and 3.6 receptions per game this past season. Duvernay was, well, a rookie, and caught just 20 passes for a grand total of 201 yards and zero touchdowns but showed some flashes in the return game and as a runner. With the wealth of wide receiver talent in free agency Baltimore will likely do more than just consider bringing in one of the big names like Kenny Golladay, Will Fuller, or JuJu Smith-Schuster but one wide out who is getting signifgantly less buzz - Curtis Samuel - should be at the top of their list for several reasons.
Samuel's speed alone makes him covetable. The former Ohio State Buckeye ran a 4.31 second 40 yard dash at the 2017 combine - the sixth fastest time recorded among all active NFL players - and recorded one of the fastest runs of the 2020 NFL season, clocking in at 21.5 miles per hour on a touchdown pass from Teddy Bridgewater. The Ravens already have some speedsters in Brown, who has run a 4.32 second forty, and Duvernay, who tied for the seventh fastest forty time at the 2020 combine with 4.39 seconds, so the addition of Samuel would give one of the fastest quarterbacks in the league, Lamar Jackson, one of the fastest receiving cores in the league, if not the fastest. This track team at receiver would make Baltimore's offense tough to game plan against, as opposing defenses would have to figure out how to stop not one, not two, but three wide outs who could take it the distance any time they get the ball. We've seen how great an offense with two speedsters at receiver can be in Kansas City and adding a third could make the Ravens offense even better than they were in that historic 2019 season. Speed really isn't something that can be coached or developed and in today's NFL speed kills, so there is something to be said for having the fastest receiving core that could score anytime they touch the ball.
In college Curtis Samuel was a receiving and rushing threat and totaled 771 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns along with 865 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns in his junior season at Ohio State for an average of a touchdown and 126 scrimmage yards per game. Having to share the field with Christian McCaffrey, DJ Moore, and Robby Anderson, Samuel's skills as a duel threat have been underutilized in Carolina but the 24 year old has still consistently improved since entering the league as a second round pick in 2017. Samuel had his best season as a professional in 2020 with 851 receiving yards on 77 receptions and 200 yards rushing on 41 attempts - all career highs - but it's clear his athleticism and skills as a runner can be better appreciated elsewhere. With a run heavy offense that desperately needs a receiver that place can be Baltimore. Samuel would give Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman opportunities to get creative in both the run and the pass in a way that no other established wide out in free agency can. While there are better true receiving options in free agency like Kenny Golladay, Will Fuller, and Juju Smith-Schuster none can offer what Samuel does in the running game: Golladay is a go up and get it, contested catch specialist, Fuller is a deep threat, and Juju primarily operates out of the slot. Baltimore already has one of the best dual threat players in the league at quarterback and the addition of Samuel would open up the playbook even more.
Samuel also makes sense from a cap perspective. Although the Ravens have $27.4 million in cap space they have a slew of other needs that need to be addressed this offseason. On offense the interior of the offensive line needs work and with Orlando Brown Jr requesting a trade, right tackle has suddenly become a big need as well. On defense Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue are both free agents and Baltimore could use upgrades at both safety positions and on the interior of the d-line. Golladay, Fuller, and Smith-Schuster should each command upwards of $16 million a year while Samuel is much more affordable at around $12 million, giving the Ravens more room to address their other needs.
The wide receivers in free agency this year are the most talented in recent memory and while the likes of Kenny Golladay, Will Fuller, and Juju Smith-Schuster headline the group and certainly seem like more exciting options, Curtis Samuel is the better option for Baltimore. His speed and athleticism make him stand out but it's really his skill and experience as a running back and affordability that would make him a great addition to the Ravens.