The Ravens made their long-awaited move to upgrade at wide receiver Friday, trading a fourth-round pick to the Buffalo Bills for Lee Evans.
The acquisition of one of the NFL's most consistent deep threats should quell the teeth-gnashing after Malcom Floyd re-signed with the San Diego Chargers and Derrick Mason defecting to the New York Jets. Evans is considered an upgrade over both of those free agents because he's more proven than Floyd and is faster than Mason.
The Bills' third all-time leader in receiving yards, Evans is expected to become the Ravens' No. 2 receiver. His speed will complement Anquan Boldin's physical style. His 15.7-yards per catch average ranks 12th in the NFL since Evans entered the league in 2004.
"He's a quality veteran receiver who stretches the field and gives us a significant downfield presence," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "He's the type of person you want on your team. He brings leadership and maturity to the locker room."
This move adds much-needed experience to the Ravens' wide receiver group and allows the Bills to shed more salary. Evans, 30, is scheduled to make $3.275 million in 2011 and 2012, the final two years of his contract (which reportedly includes an additional $1 million roster bonus due in 2012).
It is believed the Ravens were inclined to wait until Evans was cut by the Bills, a small-market team known for reducing their payroll. But Buffalo started shopping Evans aggressively Thursday (Arizona and Carolina reportedly showed interest), which prompted the Ravens to make the trade.
"This is a very exciting time for me and my family and I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to play for the Baltimore Ravens," Evans said in a statement. "I'm excited about the Ravens organization, players, and coaching staff and can't wait to get started."
The Ravens' second straight year of trading for a wide receiver (they acquired Boldin from Arizona 17 months ago) gives Evans an opportunity to revive his career. His receptions have dropped the past few seasons from 63 to 44 to 37.
He is coming off his worst season, which included 37 catches for 578 yards and four scores. He also missed the final three games with an ankle injury, the first time he missed a game in his seven-year NFL career.
But Evans, the 13th overall pick in the 2004 draft, has averaged over 15 yards per catch in six of his seven NFL seasons in the NFL despite playing with five starting quarterbacks (J.P. Losman, Kelly Holcomb, Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm) in six seasons, and wintry weather in Buffalo that better suits the running game.
If there is a team that is need of speed, it's the Ravens. Their 40 passes of 20 yards or more was tied for 27th in the NFL. Evans' 56 catches of 25-or-more yards is tied with Green Bay's Greg Jennings for 10th-most in the NFL since 2004.
The news was well-received by Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs.
"We signed Lee Evans????," Suggs posted on Twitter. "Championship!!!!"
Bills cornerback Drayton Florence questioned the deal.
"Sad day for the Bills," Florence wrote on Twitter. "Are we trying to win now or later????"
The Ravens saw first-hand how much of an impact Evans can make. Evans' best game last season came against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, where he caught six passes for 105 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-34 overtime loss by the Bills.
"Our fans will remember him from his outstanding game against us last season," Newsome said.
Bills general manager Buddy Nix said the team traded Evans because they have six or seven promising receivers to develop.
"There was a lot of interest in Lee and you could understand why," Nix told WKPW in Buffalo. "He's a good player and has done a lot of really good things here. He'll add to Baltimore. I think it's a good opportunity for him. Ozzie Newsome and I go back years and [offensive coordinator] Cam Cameron and I worked together. I think it's a great opportunity for Lee also."
The Ravens desperately needed experience in their wide receiver group. Take away Boldin and no wide receiver on the Ravens roster had caught a pass in the NFL last season.
Evans' career totals include 377 catches for 5,934 yards and 43 touchdowns. The Ravens can now move rookie second-round pick Torrey Smith to the No. 3 wide receiver spot and fourth-round pick Tandon Doss to No. 4.
With the wide receiver position solidified, the Ravens still need to add a veteran offensive tackle, an experienced backup quarterback and an offensive lineman who can play center and guard.
"We're excited about getting Lee Evans," coach John Harbaugh said. "He's a proven player in this league and a quality person who will fit in well on our team. We're all looking forward to going to work with him."
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