This week, there was lots of buzz over the release of Dez Bryant and possible talk of Ozzie finally getting the WR taken just one spot ahead of his pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. However, on Friday, the Ravens made news by instead signing New Orleans Saints WR Willie Snead to a 2 year offer sheet, worth up to $10.4 million. It’s important to note that the Ravens have NOT signed Snead yet, as the Saints have 5 days to decide if they want to match the Ravens offer sheet, at which point they automatically sign Snead to the same structured deal.
Willie Snead is an Undrafted player from Ball State who actually first came into the league with the Cleveland Browns in 2014. Snead was cut by the Browns, then signed to the Panthers practice squad, then cut and eventually signed to the Saints practice squad near the end of the 2014 season. In 2015, he impressed enough in training camp to make the final roster, and his play in their offense vaunted him to an eventual starting role. He finished 2015 with 69 catches and 984 yards. In 2016, he didn’t start as many games, but still recorded 72 catches for 895 yards. In 2017, he had an off-field incident where he crashed into a parked car, and failed a breathalyzer test, which led to a suspension for violating the NFL policy on substance abuse. The suspension ended up being for 3 games, but when he returned, he battled a hamstring injury that kept him out an additional 2 games. Snead struggled to get snaps in the Saints offense through the year, and finished with just 92 yards on 8 catches. The Saints decided to place the lowest Restricted Free Agent tender on Snead this offseason, which would normally compensate the team with a draft pick from Snead’s draft round (However, with him being an Undrafted Free Agent, there is no draft pick involved.)
Snead is a quick WR that has been most used as a slot receiver and a returner. His abilities shown over the 2015 and 2016 seasons would seem to “complete” the desired makeover of the Ravens WR room, giving them a big possession WR in Michael Crabtree, a speedy downfield threat in John Brown, and now a proven slot receiver in Snead. Much like his free agent signing counterparts, Snead is coming off a disappointing season, which is a big reason why he was only given a low tender. The Ravens Front Office are banking on Snead’s 2017 off-field issues being resolved, and that a fresh opportunity in a different offense will ignite a spark in him to best whatever limitations the Saints saw in him. The Ravens brought in Snead for a visit back in March, and after the visit, Snead cryptically tweeted “Done taking back seats & waiting for someone to give me a chance. I’m coming for it all this season. I WILL be one of the best receivers in this league, I WILL have a break out year & I WILL make sure they never doubt me again!” It wasn’t clear who this was directed at, but it would seemingly be a dig against the Saints’ views on him and not giving him a long term deal.
Again, Snead’s signing isn’t official, as the Saints have 5 days to match. However, reading the tea leaves a bit, the Saints made moves at WR by signing another Restricted Free Agent, Cameron Meredith (who also visited with the Ravens), to a similar 2-year deal, and also by re-signing Brandon Coleman. They also were in a worse cap situation than the Ravens, though with the Ravens making the deal with a friendly cap structure in Year 1, the Saints could likely match and make a simple move or two to fit him in. It seems more likely than not that the Saints will simply decline to match the offer and move on.
While adding Snead would likely complete their WR additions in free agency, it would seem likely that the Ravens would still be looking to draft a WR sometime during the early rounds next week. Snead would only be signed for 2 years, John Brown is only signed for 1, and even Crabtree’s deal is only for 3 years. None are certain long term options, and it would benefit the Ravens to draft a few WRs to work on developing (given their track record, the more the better!) so that when these signed WRs are ready to move on, we can replace them with drafted WRs we have groomed and have comfort with.
So, we wait with breath held to see if New Orleans will match. But, tentatively, Welcome to Baltimore, Willie!