OWINGS MILLS, Md. – When asked how the Baltimore Ravens would lure a wide receiver with a free agent, general manager Eric DeCosta referenced one of his favorite movies.

I call Godfather and make him an offer he can’t refuse, he says.

Nearly two weeks into free agency, the Ravens’ arduous search for an experienced target for Lamar Jackson has come to one of two conclusions:

– The Ravens don’t have the space to let DeCosta do his best Marlon Brando impersonation and stifle the buyers that would lure him to Baltimore.

– Or maybe the receivers don’t want to play in the backfield in Baltimore.

Lamar Jackson and Marquise Hollywood Brown could help at receiver, but no one has stepped up yet. Photo by Nicole Friedling/Sportswire Icon

This season, the Ravens have made only two offers to free agents – JuJu Smith-Schuster and T.J. Hilton – and they’ve gotten nothing, though it’s fair to say Baltimore has made better offers.

Last week, the Ravens offered Smith-Schuster a one-year, $9 million contract that includes $4 million in bonuses, according to NFL Network. Smith-Schuster decided to stay with the Pittsburgh Steelers for one year and received an $8 million contract.

Baltimore made a case for Hilton on Wednesday, offering him a multi-year contract with more guaranteed money than the Indianapolis Colts, the source said. But Hilton decided to stay with the Colts on a one-year, $10 million contract.

It’s entirely possible that the Ravens’ offers weren’t enough to force Smith-Schuster and Hilton to leave the teams they put together. It’s also possible that neither Smith-Schuster nor Hilton want to play in an offense that has thrown the ball just 406 times, the lowest total in the NFL in eight years.

The failed search for a receiver has caused great frustration among Ravens fans and even inspired a meme on Twitter that prompted a response from Jackson.

Why are free agents saying no to the Ravens?

– Lamar Jackson (@Lj_era8) 25. March 2021

The Ravens are in a tough spot because they want to help Jackson develop as a passer, but they also don’t want to disrupt the winning formula too much.

Since Jackson became Baltimore’s starting quarterback midway through the 2018 season, the Ravens have won more games (31) and scored more points (30.1) than any other team in the league. Baltimore has done so with a potent offense that has put up two of the best running seasons in NFL history.

But the Ravens know they need to get more balanced after failing to score more than 20 points in their three postseason defeats. After the season, Baltimore wide receiver Marquise Hollywood Brown expressed his displeasure with the fact that the Ravens ranked 1st in rushing and 32nd in passing.

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QB – Why the McVay-Goff duo fell apart against the Rams.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he doesn’t apologize for the team’s running philosophy and won’t beg the receiver to come to Baltimore. It’s just hard to fit a receiver into an offense where you block more than run routes. The last Ravens wide receiver to break the 800-yard mark was Mike Wallace in 2016.

The other options for Baltimore are contracting Sammy Watkins, who visited the Ravens Tuesday, or seeking a trade. Baltimore could also add a wide receiver in the draft, but the team’s record doesn’t inspire much confidence. Only one of the 30 wide receivers drafted by the Ravens has had a 1,000-yard season (Torrey Smith in 2013).

Over the years, the Ravens have continued to expand their group of receivers, with 30-plus receivers ranging from Derrick Mason to Anquan Boldin to Steve Smith Sr. But Baltimore hasn’t added a significant free agent in two seasons where Jackson was the instigator.

Until the Ravens select Jackson as their top target, it will be up to the franchise to decide if the wide receivers want to play in Baltimore.

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