The Ravens have had trouble filling out their wide receiving corps with difference makers in recent years, and general manager Eric DeCosta’s candidness regarding those woes at his NFL Scouting Combine news conference on Wednesday has struck the wrong note with one of the team’s best.
A day after DeCosta commented on the disappointment of failing to hit on an All-Pro WR despite taking multiple swings, Rashod Bateman, a 2021 first-round pick at the position, voiced his rebuttal in a since-deleted tweet.
“how bout you play to your player’s strength and & stop pointing the finger at us and #8,” Bateman wrote, while also referencing quarterback Lamar Jackson, “blame the one you let do this…. we take heat 24/7. & keep us healthy … care about US & see what happen..ain’t no promises tho … tired of y’all lyin and capn on players for no reason.”
After deleting the tweet, he sent out a new message: “my apologies.”
Whether the team brass and Bateman spoke between his original tweet and his apology or the WR deleted the message on his own, he took initial offense to elements of DeCosta’s thinking.
“It’s a challenging position to evaluate in different ways,” DeCosta said Wednesday, beginning a statement that would eventually draw Bateman’s ire. “If I had an answer, that means I would probably have some better receivers, I guess. We keep trying. I think there’s a lot of things that go along with that position. Sometimes it is tied to the quarterback. And I think it’s tied to things like durability. It’s tied to a lot of things. We’re gonna keep swinging. There have been some guys that have been successful players for us that were draft picks. We’ve never really hit on that All-Pro type of guy, which is disappointing, I would say. But it’s not for lack of effort.
“We believe in what we do. We believe in our scouting. We believe in the scouting system that we have. It’s one of those anomalies that I really can’t explain other than to say we’re not gonna stop trying. We’re gonna keep trying. We’ve drafted probably at least five or six receivers in the last four years, maybe. We’re just gonna keep swinging. And hopefully at one of these points we’ll hit the ball out of the park. That’s our goal. We understand the importance of the position. So, we’ll keep trying.”
The wide receiver position has been problematic for Baltimore’s offense. The offense has ranked in the bottom three in passing yards in two of the last three years, although the unit placed 13th in 2021.
And the cupboard being relatively bare has also made it difficult on Jackson to develop alongside his weapons. Jackson remains in contract negotiations with the franchise-tag deadline looming on March 7, and Bateman included the QB as wrongly getting a finger pointed at him.
As their GM mentioned, the Ravens drafted six wideouts in the last four years — Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin in 2019, Devin Duvernay and James Proche in 2020, and Bateman and Tylan Wallace in 2021.
However, they did not select any wideout in last year’s draft despite trading Brown to the Cardinals. Demarcus Robinson, a late-August signing, led all WRs in receptions (48) and yards (458) last season.
With Brown in Arizona and Boykin’s offseason release in 2022, the other four recent draft picks have combined for 182 receptions, 2,014 yards and 10 touchdowns in their careers.
Of the four, Bateman has the highest single-season totals with 46 catches for 515 yards, which came during his rookie year.
His talent has not been an issue, but injuries have. He missed the first five games of his rookie season due to a groin injury, and he played in only six contests in 2022 due to a Lisfranc injury that required season-ending surgery.
DeCosta referenced durability as part of the WR equation, but the general manager also spoke glowingly of Bateman individually.
“Rashod is doing really well,” he said. “Obviously, it was a pretty serious injury. I think we got out ahead of it to a degree. Rashod and the club, we decided to do the surgery, and I think it was probably good that we did it at that point because the injury could’ve gotten worse. He’s doing well. We text quite a bit. I know he’s very, very excited, chomping at the bit to get into the offseason program. We’re very excited about him as a player. Can’t wait to see what he can do this year.”
DeCosta and Bateman will likely need more discussion following the tiff that occurred over twitter, but it’s clear Baltimore values the former first-rounder as part of the solution to the overall problem.