There are a number of options the Ravens might pursue to get a No. 1 receiver, but the best way to get a strong return on their investment is to sign the San Diego Chargers' Malcom Floyd.
Certainly, there are more popular choices -- San Diego's No. 1 receiver Vincent Jackson, Denver's Brandon Marshall and Dallas' Miles Austin -- but it's unlikely the Ravens will be able to sign any of those three for various reasons.
Like Jackson, Marshall and Austin, Floyd is expected to become a restricted free agent if this becomes an uncapped season, which seems likely.
San Diego will invest top dollar to retain Jackson, their top receiver in 2009. Dallas owner Jerry Jones won't let Austin get away, not after he surpassed Roy Williams as the Cowboys' top receiver this past season.
Marshall? Uh, oh. Here we go again. After a Pro Bowl season in 2009 in which he caught 101 passes for 1,120 yards and 10 touchdowns, the disgruntled Bronco wants to be traded. Again. The Broncos want to oblige him, but at what cost?
If Denver wants a first-round pick, then the Ravens should make the deal. If the Broncos want a first- and second-rounder or a first- and third-rounder, then the Ravens should tell them to take a hike. No use mortgaging the franchise's future for a head case.
That brings us back to Floyd.
He's 6-5 and weighs 225 pounds. He isn't a burner, but has pretty good speed. He was the perfect bookend for the 6-5, 230-pound Jackson. In his fourth season out of Wyoming, Floyd caught 45 passes for 776 yards (a 17.2 yards a catch average) and eight touchdowns in 2009. He can become the deep threat the Ravens lacked on the outside, or the big target they need inside the red zone.
His nickname is "M-80."
Floyd is just starting to enter his prime. Just as important, the Ravens only have to go down the hallway in The Castle to do a background check on him because offensive coordinator Cam Cameron coached Floyd with the Chargers a few years ago. Cameron really likes him, and Floyd could step in without any hesitation because he is familiar with the offense.
If Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome is smart, he should be preparing a tender for Floyd when the free-agent period opens on March 5, or asking the Chargers about a trade. Here's a game plan for the Ravens: They trade for Floyd before he hits the open market, re-sign Derrick Mason as the No. 2 receiver, and draft Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham with the No. 25 overall pick in the first round in April.
If that scenario unfolds, who does the biggest cartwheels around The Castle, Cameron or quarterback Joe Flacco? Even if the Ravens select a cornerback with their first-round pick, they've still upgraded and become a better football team than last season.
Right now, Floyd doesn't appear to be a sexy pick, not with Marshall and even Terrell Owens possibly available. But just because you make a big splash with a receiver, doesn't guarantee a Super Bowl. The Pittsburgh Steelers won the title a year ago with receivers named Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes. The year before, Plaxico Burress was the top receiver for the world champion New York Giants who upset the New England Patriots.
Excuse me, but doesn't All-World receiver Randy Moss play for the Patriots?
Does he have a Super Bowl ring yet?
Head cases like Moss and Marshall will give you big numbers, but they also can give you a lot of heartache. Marshall quit on the Broncos before the end of the regular season, and Moss had his bags packed before halftime of the Patriots'opening round playoff loss to the Ravens.
There are some who say the Ravens could pick up a top receiver in the draft, but that's highly unlikely with the Ravens choosing late in the first round. Plus, you can't count on a rookie, and the Ravens haven't been that successful with selecting receivers. There is also speculation that receivers such as Antwaan Randle-El and Santana Moss could become available after the draft.
Who cares? The Ravens already have a number of smurf receivers.
They need a big receiver, not necessarily a big name. They need someone who can streak down the sideline and make acrobatic catches. For the biggest bargain out there that doesn't force the Ravens to trade away the future, Floyd is the best answer.