Ravens considering options after losing Owens

OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens' brief and stormy marriage to All-Pro wide receiver Terrell Owens was officially annulled Tuesday.

The AFC North champions' need for a viable downfield target to upgrade the league's lowest-ranked passing game hasn't abated, though.

Following a settlement that rescinded the trade of Owens to Baltimore and sent the four-time Pro Bowl selection to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Ravens are exploring their options in a skinny free-agent market and a draft that's rich in talented receivers. Under the settlement brokered between the NFL management council and players' union, the Ravens' second-round draft pick was returned after the initial trade to the San Francisco 49ers in addition to gaining the Philadelphia Eagles' fifth-round selection.

"We're not going to just rush players in here because we lost Terrell," Ravens director of pro personnel George Kokinis said. "We've evaluated all the receivers, and there are certainly some guys that could add some depth.

"We have unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents, the possible June 1 cuts and a draft with a thick receiver class. It's not out of the realm that we would take someone with our first pick."

During the Ravens' aborted association with Owens, receiver Marcus Robinson left Baltimore to sign a four-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings for $9.4 million.

Last season, Robinson caught 31 passes for 451 yards with a team-high six touchdown receptions. Owens caught 80 passes for 1,102 yards and nine touchdowns for the 49ers.

Baltimore's returning wide receivers that caught passes last season, Travis Taylor, Frank Sanders and Ron Johnson, combined for 54 receptions for 814 yards and three touchdowns.

Plus, receiver Darrell Jackson returned to the Seattle Seahawks during the veteran signing period while David Boston and Justin McCareins were traded to the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets, respectively. Even second-tier prospect Tai Streets is off the receiver market after striking a deal with the Detroit Lions.

"We know it's a need, losing Marcus in free agency, and Darrell Jackson signing back with Seattle, but we're not going to piece-meal something together just to say we did it," Kokinis said. "It's got to be the right player. It's got to be a fit."

The Ravens have the 51st overall selection of the draft as ammunition while also considering unrestricted free-agents like former Chicago Bears starter Dez White and Kevin Dyson, a former Carolina Panther.

Baltimore had the top-ranked rushing game as Jamal Lewis gained 2,066 yards last season. However, the team averaged only 141.3 passing yards per game.

"We're not completely stuck," Ravens quarterbacks and receivers coach David Shaw said. "Our cupboards aren't bare as it is anyway. We took a shot at a guy who has proven he's toward the top of the league and it didn't pan out.

"I trust Ozzie and Brian [Billick] have plans B, C and D ready to go."

White caught 49 passes last season for 583 yards and three touchdowns.

Muhsin Muhammad, who caught 54 passes for 837 yards and three touchdowns last season for Carolina, is a possible salary-cap casualty.

The Jets recently cut veteran Curtis Conway, who caught 46 passes for 640 yards and two touchdowns last season.

Miami Dolphins receiver Chris Chambers, who caught 66 passes for 976 yards and four touchdowns, has been mentioned as a possible trade option in published reports.

Alex Bannister, a restricted free agent and a Pro Bowl special-teams choice, can be obtained for a fifth-round pick if the Seahawks opted not to match an offer sheet.

All-Pro tight end Todd Heap led Baltimore last year with 57 receptions for 693 yards. Taylor is the Ravens' top returning wide receiver with 39 receptions last season for 632 yards and three scores.

"We've got a lot of guys who have shown promise that we need to be able to count on week in and week out," Shaw said.

Javin Hunter is recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon. Randy Hymes is rehabilitating a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Johnson underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last year and caught only one pass.

Sanders is set to earn $2 million in base salary. He debuted in Baltimore last season with only 14 receptions and no touchdowns.

The Ravens also want to look at Kareem Kelly, a practice-squad member last season.

"I'm sure they want to prove we don't really have to go outside the team," Kokinis said. "We're always looking to upgrade. Competition is what it's all about."

NOTE: Kickoff specialist Wade Richey signed his one-year contract Tuesday.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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