After being released by the Baltimore Ravens, Michael Crabtree will go toward the top of a thin free agent class at wide receiver.
The Baltimore Ravens are committing to Lamar Jackson at quarterback and thus a more run-based approach with younger weapons around him. Michael Crabtree doesn’t fit that template, at 31 years old and scheduled to make $7 million this year.
On Monday ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the veteran wide receiver has been released.
Crabtree had 54 receptions for 607 yards and three touchdowns while playing all 16 games for the Ravens last season. It’s a low bar, but he has topped 600 yards in five straight seasons, along with at least 100 targets in all five of those campaigns.
He’ll now join his third team in as many seasons in 2019, after signing a three-year, $21 million deal with the Ravens last offseason, and his new team will be his fourth NFL team overall.
As with all of Baltimore’s pass catchers last year, Crabtree’s production fell with Jackson starting under center as the offense shifted to the ground game.
In the nine games Joe Flacco started Crabtree had 41 catches for 472 yards, on 76 targets, with at least five targets in every game (8.4 targets per game). In the seven games Jackson started, Crabtree had just 13 catches for 135 yards (on 24 targets; 3.4 targets per game).
After a highly productive career at Texas Tech, with 231 receptions for 3,127 yards and 41 touchdowns over two seasons, Crabtree has not fully lived up to his status as a top-10 pick (10th overall in 2009 by the San Francisco 49ers).
But he does have two 1,000-yard seasons on his resume, in 2012 with the 49ers and 2016 with the Oakland Raiders, and five seasons with at least 68 receptions (three seasons with more than 80 catches)
Working in Crabtree’s favor is a thin class of wide receivers this year. Golden Tate is No. 1 in any ranking out there, with Tyrell Williams, Adam Humphries, John Brown, Demaryius Thomas, Randall Cobb, Donte Moncrief, Cole Beasley and Pierre Garcon among the most notable names.
DeSean Jackson is likely to be cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but Crabtree’s skill set is not similar and the market for those two is not likely to overlap a bunch.
Crabtree is a solid complementary piece, so he won’t lack for suitors. The bigger questions will be the kind of contract he gets, likely a one-year deal, and the role he’ll be counted on to fill on a new team.