It’s been over ten years since the Baltimore Ravens had a legitimate return threat.
As of Tuesday, May 8, the Ravens’ prayers for a solid return specialist may have been answered after the club signed veteran free agent wide receiver/return specialist Jacoby Jones to a two-year deal.
In addition, the Ravens kept the secondary intact by extending safety Bernard Pollard for the next three seasons.
“Adding Jacoby gives us another proven downfield weapon in our passing game and production with our returns,” said Newsome, according to the team’s press release. “His experience makes the offense better, and the competition he brings can help raise our levels at receiver and with punt and kickoff returns.”
Jermaine Lewis was the last Ravens’ receiver to be a full-time threat in kickoff and punt returns. Until 2006, Lewis had the most all-purpose yards in franchise history with 8,001–over 6,000 from returns.
Former Ravens’ running back Jamal Lewis holds the record at 7,795 yards. Former Ravens’ return man in B.J. Sams was looked to be Lewis’ incumbent, but his career was short lived due to injuries. Ravens’ great safety Ed Reed provided sparks in the return game in times of need, and cornerback Lardarius Webb has been solid. However, like Reed, Webb is more needed defensively.
Coach John Harbaugh stated the need of finding a full-time return specialist to free up Webb in the return game in early April.
“I have no problem with Lardarius returning punts,” said Harbaugh. “Although, if there is another option that is a better player or takes your starting corner and takes him off the punt return, that’s even better.”
The six-year veteran in Jones, 27, has played in 75 career games (21 starts). Originally selected by the Houston Texans out of Lane College in the third round of the 2007 NFL Draft, Jones made a career-high 10 starts last season, while playing in all 16 games.
In five seasons with the Texans, Jones recorded 127 catches for 1,741 receiving yards, averaging 13.7 yards, and 11 touchdowns. The 6-2, 212-pound receiver posted a 10.2-yard average on punt returns (179 attempts for 1,820 yards) and a 23.3-yard kickoff return average (64 attempted for 1,490 yards). For his career, Jones tallied four total return touchdowns – three via punt return and one kickoff return.
Pollard is entering his seventh NFL season, and saw action in 92 games (72 starts), including all 16 contests with 13 starts in his first year with the Ravens in 2011. The aggressive, 27-year-old veteran accumulated 75 tackles (55 solo), two sacks (one for a loss of 14 yards), one interception, with a career-high 13 passes defensed and three forced fumbles for the Ravens last season.
“Bernard showed last year that he is a Raven,” said Newsome. “He’s smart, tough and brings a passion to the games, our practices and in the weight room. His physical presence on the back end is very important to the way we play defense. He has indicated since the first day he stepped into our building last training camp that he wanted to be a Raven for the long haul.”