Sunday, August 11, 2013
Ravens' timely reunion with Stokley
By Jamison Hensley
The Baltimore Ravens' signing of wide receiver Brandon Stokley to a one-year contract Sunday will stir up memories of him beating Jason Sehorn for a 38-yard touchdown in the 2001 Super Bowl.
But this is more than just a sentimental reunion with the only active player remaining from the team's first championship team. This is about what the Ravens need now from their wide receiver group.
While Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones can stretch the field on the outside, Stokley is a slot receiver who isn't afraid to go over the middle to make the tough catches that move the chains. The Ravens need that complementary receiver who will catch that third-down pass on the underneath route and come up big with that critical touchdown reception in the red zone (like that 15-yard touchdown grab in the playoffs last season against Baltimore).
Last season with the Denver Broncos, 30 of Stokley's 45 catches went for first downs (67 percent). Only the Steelers' Emmanuel Sanders and the Panthers' Brandon LaFell had more first downs on fewer catches.
Baltimore doesn't envision Stokley giving the team 60 catches or even 700 yards receiving. The hope is he brings a dependable presence to the passing game, something that's needed after Anquan Boldin was traded and Dennis Pitta was lost to a season-ending hip injury. Stokley caught 45 passes last season on 57 targeted passes, which was the highest success rate (78.9 percent) in the NFL. He had only one drop.
Stokley has brought his career full circle by returning to Baltimore. He left the Ravens after the 2002 season when the team only offered him a minimum-salary deal. At that point, Stokley was a receiver who could never stay healthy to reach his potential. Eleven years later, after putting up some solid numbers with Peyton Manning, Stokley is back to help a receiver group that lacks experience and could be without Deonte Thompson, who is nursing an ankle injury.
There are no guarantees that Stokley will make a significant impact for the Ravens. He's 37 years old and contemplated retirement after the 2011 season. But, given Stokley's history and the Ravens' current situation at wide receiver, this could turn out to be another timely, late-offseason signing by general manager Ozzie Newsome.