Ravens undrafted rookie TE Jacob Breeland is not expected to play in 2020
There were a lot of high hopes for Baltimore Ravens’ undrafted free agent rookie tight end Jacob Breeland heading into the 2020 season. He was placed on the active non-football injury list on Monday and now he’s not expected to play at all this year.
This offseason has been challenging for rookies of every draft status due to the physical restrictions stemming COVID-19 pandemic. First-year players rehabbing from injuries suffered in their final collegiate seasons, during the pre-draft process or while training remotely have been at an even greater disadvantage.
Breeland was enjoying a breakout season for the Oregon Ducks last season with 26 receptions for 405 yards and six touchdowns in just six games before a knee injury ended his senior campaign. He likely would’ve been one of or the top tight end prospect in this year’s draft. While he is expected to practice with the team once he’s physically able, he’s still recovering from offseason surgery.
This development is disappointing for Breeland since he was considered the early favorite to win the third tight end spot on the Ravens depth chart that was vacated when the 2018 first-round pick Hayden Hurst was traded to the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for a second-round pick. His chief competition for the third and possibly final roster spot at that position was fellow 2020 undrafted free agent Eli Wolf out of Georgia and 2019 undrafted free agent out of Delaware Charles Scarff.
The tight end position is heavily featured in Ravens Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman’s offense and even the third stringer gets a lot of snaps. Baltimore uses more multiple tight end sets than any other team in the league and sometimes they even all three on the field at the same time in some power running formations or a deceptive formation to dial-up a play-action pass.
As tantalizing as Breeland’s potential in this offense was heading into, relying on a first-year player coming off a completely virtual offseason like him or Wolf or even Scarff who spent the entire all of last season on the Ravens’ practice squad to replace Hurst’s 457 snaps from 2019 behind Pro Bowl starter Mark Andrews and veteran blocking specialist Nick Boyle may have been a little too optimistic.
With Breeland now expected to get a jump start on the 2021 season, the Ravens could turn to the veteran free-agent market to reinforce the position group that is vital to the team’s success on the offensive side of the ball. Some seasoned players available to be signed are three-time Pro Bowler Delanie Walker, a former first-round pick in Vernon Davis and former Raven Ed Dickson.
Walker has struggled to stay healthy as a member of the Tennessee Titans over the last two seasons but prior to contracting the injury bug, he recorded four straight seasons of over 100 catches and at least 800 yards receiving, including a 1,000-yard season in 2015 where caught a career-high 133 passes. The 14-year veteran won’t be required to have such a heavy workload in Baltimore as he did in Nashville, but he could still be a factor in a limited role.
Davis announced his retirement from the NFL during the week of the Superbowl but an opportunity to play for Ravens and possibly add another Superbowl ring to his coffer might be enough to convince the Washington D.C. native who played collegiately at for the University of Maryland Terps to come back for one last ride.
He spent the first 10 years of his career and earned his two career Pro Bowl bids with the San Francisco 49ers after being drafted sixth overall in the 2006 NFL Draft. After a short stint with the Denver Broncos in 2015 where he won his only championship ring, Davis spent the last four seasons serving as a backup and spot starter for the other Maryland NFL franchise, currently known as the Washington Football Team.
At this point in his career after a decade and a half in the league, he’s not the same athletic specimen that he was coming out of college and early on in his career, however, the 15-year vet still has some juice left in his legs, can still make the occasional eye-popping athletic acrobatic catch and could still add some value in both the passing game as a pass catcher and the running back as an above-average blocker.
Davis cited one of the main reasons that he decided to step away from the game was because of the wear and tear on his body, but the Ravens coaching staff takes care of their seasoned players with regular off days for veterans to keep them off their feet and help them stay fresh for the grind of a full season and their strength and recovery team is among the best in the league.
Dickson began his career with Ravens when he was selected in the third round out of Oregon in the 2010 NFL Draft. His best season as a pro came in his second year in Baltimore where he recorded career-highs in receptions (54), receiving yards (528), and touchdowns (five). He was a part of the 2012 Ravens team that went on a magical ride to Superbowl. The Ravens opted to let him walk in free agency after his rookie contract expired in 2013, choosing to instead retain his 2010 draftmate, Dennis Pitta.
He spent the next four seasons with the Carolina Panthers playing second fiddle to Greg Olsen, played in a second Superbowl against Davis’ Broncos in 2015, and recorded his second-best season in his last year with the team in 2018 with 30 catches for 437 yards and a touchdown. He signed a three-year deal worth $10.7 million with the Seattle Seahawks last offseason but was released after just one year back in March to clear up over $5 million in cap space.
Much like the other two aforementioned candidates, Dickson would be best suited for a limited rotational role which is exactly the job that the Ravens have to offer. Hurst played just 41 percent of the Ravens snaps last season, in 10 games with Seattle Dickson was on the field for a career-low 34 percent of his team’s offensive snaps.
At 33 years old and heading into his 10th season in the league if he is signed, Dickson is nowhere near the same explosive pass-catching threat that Hurst was for the Ravens, but he is still a proficient blocker and has shown the ability to make plays over the middle of the field and underneath in the passing game throughout his career.