The trade of Anquan Boldin to the 49ers this offseason has created a major hole in the Ravens passing game. One solution to that problem would be to promote Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams, David Reed or one of the other young receivers to a starting role. Another would be to draft a plug-and-play wideout.
Another would be to give the No. 2 receiver job to Jacoby Jones, but the Ravens don't want his electrifying return game to suffer as a result.
"We’ll have to wait and see how that plays out," coach John Harbaugh said at the Ravens pre-draft news conference. "That goes for every position; the more guys play in one area, the more it probably lessens their time in other areas just because you can only get so much time on the field."
Harbaugh added that the Ravens will have Jones on a "pitch count."
As the Ravens No. 3 receiver last year, Jones finished with 30 catches for 406 yards and one touchdown. He had another five catches for 147 yards in the playoffs, none bigger than the Mile High Miracle, the 70-yard bomb from Joe Flacco in the closing seconds to stun the Broncos.
In six NFL seasons, Jones has been over 31 receptions just once, and the Ravens will definitely need more production than that from a bona fide No. 2 receiver. Jones obviously has breakaway straight-line speed, and can extend the field, but he needs to improve route-running skills and his hands in traffic to become a surefire No. 2 receiver. But that might not be his ideal role. Would his return game suffer? He was spectacular in that regard last season, with a franchise-record three return touchdowns in the regular season and another in the Super Bowl.
If Jones' workload does increase on offense, Harbaugh sounded confident that others could fill in on the return unit.
"We’ve got some young returner options who are pretty talented, so we’ll just see how it goes," he said.
Last season, rookie Deonte Thompson began the season as the Ravens top kickoff return specialist. He averaged 25.9 yards a return, but after Thompson fumbled a return at Kansas City, Jones took over for the Dallas game and had the job the rest of the season.
Jones' first return with the Ravens, in fact, was a 108-yard touchdown against the Cowboys. That's the kind of big-play ability the Ravens don't want to lose if Jones -- once he's done dancing with the stars -- increases his offensive workload.