Ravens banking on 'trash heap' with Brandon Stokley, Dallas Clark

Veteran receivers won't be stars, but they'll help the Ravens with their pass-catching ability

August 12, 2013|Mike Preston

The last time the Ravens visited the "trash heap" for a receiver, they traded a fourth-round draft pick to the Buffalo Bills for Lee Evans in 2011. And now, they've brought in tight end Dallas Clark and wide receiver Brandon Stokley.

We're all familiar with Evans.

He played in only nine games and had four catches for 74 yards that season. He failed to secure the late game-winning touchdown pass in the end zone against the New England Patriots in the AFC championship, and eventually replaced the human "Water Buffalo" — quarterback Scott Mitchell — as the biggest name one-year failure in the history of the Ravens.

The Ravens are rolling the dice again with Stokley, 37, and Clark, 34. When you visit the "trash heap," a term made famous in Baltimore by former coach Brian Billick, it is a "buyers beware" market. In other words, you're taking a shot with someone else's used merchandise.

It's like shopping at a Goodwill store.

You might get some more wear out of the product, but its best days are in the past. There aren't a lot of fans jumping around about the moves because it's not like the Ravens just signed a Shannon Sharpe or a Wes Welker in their prime, but they are both good acquisitions and make perfect sense.

The Ravens were desperate for a No. 3 receiver or tight end who can work the middle of the field. Of course, there will be criticism of Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, who traded star receiver Anquan Boldin in the offseason because of salary-cap concerns, but that's history.

The Ravens won the Super Bowl, and with a championship comes capital, and both Newsome and coach John Harbaugh had plenty to spend. Plus, the Ravens wanted an infusion of youth, and they had a lot of young receivers on the roster that could develop into the No. 2 opposite of No. 1 receiver, Torrey Smith.

But that plan hasn't worked out. It hasn't been shelved yet, but put it in the "work in progress" category. The Ravens had an inkling it would not work in the various offseason mini-camps when none of the primary candidates — Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson, David Reed — took the lead, and it became worse when starting tight end Dennis Pitta suffered a season-ending fractured and dislocated hip on the third day of practice in training camp.

And the Ravens had to hit the panic button after Thursday night in the preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when Jones, Doss and Thompson were targeted five times, and they combined for one catch for 5 yards. With No. 2 tight end Ed Dickson out an unspecified amount of time with a torn hamstring and backup Visanthe Shiancoe dropping two passes against the Buccaneers, the Ravens had to make a move.

They went to the "trash heap."

If anyone is expecting the Clark and Stokley of old, then that's a mistake. They are just an old Clark and Stokley, but surrounded by good talent and scheme, they should be successful as long as they stay healthy. Of course, that's always questionable with older players, especially Clark, whose shoulder and wrist injuries have forced him to miss substantial time during the second half of his 10-year career.

They aren't going to each catch 70 passes for 1,100 yards, but if one has 40 or 50 catches this season, that's a good year. The Ravens have the other pieces in place to be successful in quarterback Joe Flacco, running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, Smith and two outstanding guards in Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda.

Neither Stokley nor Clark has to carry the offense, but they will help keep defenses honest. Clark had 47 catches for 435 yards and four touchdowns last season in Tampa Bay. If he becomes the No. 2 tight end, the Ravens can run their two tight-end set, which will balance defenses and keep them in the base for an extended period of time.

Stokley has never been a speed guy, but he's a slot receiver who can find holes in defenses. He still has good hands and had 45 catches for 544 yards and five touchdowns in 15 games for the Denver Broncos last season. He could become the perfect No. 3 or 4 receiver, complementing speedsters like Smith and Jones on the outside, which was his role in Indianapolis when the Colts had Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne lined up on the outside.

Plus, both players have the reputation of being leaders and great locker room guys. Overall, it is a good situation for the Ravens.

Of course, they are desperate and they are getting two players whose best years are behind them, but they are filling holes. Also, the additions of Stokley and Clark can only hasten the development of the younger receivers who now have to worry about making the roster.

It is all good.

Sometimes, you never know what you will find in the trash. There still might be some value left in certain items.

That's what the Ravens are banking on.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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