Prima donna receivers are one of those uniquely NFL creations that make Sundays must-watch. They exist for exactly two purposes, scoring touchdowns and glorifying themselves, and don’t ask them how they’d order those two. They’re exhilarating to watch if you’re rooting for them, infuriating if you’re rooting against them.
For a quarterback, a prima donna receiver is like an ancient treasure was to Indiana Jones — you’ve got to have one, though you might end up cursed. Think Tom Brady and Randy Moss, Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown … and try not to think about, say, Terrell Owens and Jeff Garcia. It’s like jumping on board one of those motorcycles that can hit triple figures through city traffic — it’s a great idea right up until the moment it’s not.
So it’s not at all surprising that reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson would have his eye on adding one of the brilliant, mercurial receivers now on the market. Jackson has made no secret of the fact that he’d like to bring Brown into the Ravens’ fold; he worked out with the 32-year-old Brown over the summer and believes the former Steelers great still has game.
Brown, with an off-field history that could most charitably be described as “rocky,” is radioactive at this point. It’s not surprising that Baltimore, along with the rest of the NFL, is keeping a lot of yardage between itself and Brown.
But what about the other marquee receiver who’s updating his LinkedIn profile? Dez Bryant, who hasn’t caught a pass in a live NFL game since the 2017 season, is headed to Baltimore for a workout later this week. Jackson has offered measured support for the idea.
“We've got a lot of great receivers on the team right now,” Jackson told the Ravens’ team website. “It's up to the front office. I've been seeing Dez Bryant on Instagram and stuff like that, running his routes, competing against cornerbacks. He's looking pretty good on social media. If the front office likes him, we'll have to see when he gets here.”
Bryant, for his part, wants back in the league. He attempted a comeback in 2018 with the Saints, but tore his Achilles tendon just two days after signing a contract, before even playing a single game.
Now 31, Bryant also offered lavish praise for Jackson, always a wise idea when you’re trying to get in good with a new team.
“He's the man,” Bryant told TMZ when he arrived in Baltimore. “Hell yeah. I've been rooting for Lamar since his Louisville days. Anybody that knows me knows that.”
Rooting for Jackson is one thing. Fitting into one of the league’s best offenses is another entirely. The Ravens led the league in passing touchdowns last year with 37, but ranked dead last in number of pass attempts with 440. That speaks volumes about Jackson’s efficiency, but it’s also evidence there’s not a whole lot of workload to go around. Not only that, when you’ve got the greatest running quarterback in NFL history on your roster, what’s the incentive to bring in a receiver who could upset the balance of a reigning No. 1 seed?
No wide receiver in Baltimore’s system ranked in the top 70 in targets last year; only tight end Mark Andrews even broke into the top 50. That’s not a whole lot of potential touches available for Bryant, and if we know anything about those big-name, big-production, big-ego wide receivers, it’s that they demand their touches.
Working in Bryant’s favor: The fact that the Ravens’ receiving corps doesn’t have much depth beyond Andrews and Marquise Brown. “If there’s a spot on the Ravens that’s a little concerning, maybe it’s the pass catchers for Lamar Jackson,” our Frank Schwab said in his preview of the Ravens. “The Ravens rely on the run game, but they need to pass the ball efficiently too and their receiving corps is pretty thin.”
Could that open the door for Bryant to return to the league? He’ll get a shot, and at the moment, that’s all he can expect.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee and contact him with tips and story ideas at email@example.com.
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