Ravens second-year wide receiver Darren Waller is making a move to tight end, adding more intrigue to a position group that has made its more than its share of news this offseason.
On the same day that the Ravens introduced veteran tight end Ben Watson -- who signed a two-year, $8 million deal on the first day of free agency -- general manager Ozzie Newsome said Waller will join Watson at that position.
When the season ended, tight end appeared to be one of the Ravens more stable, deep positions, with three promising young players in Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle. But since then, Gillmore has had to deal with surgery on both shoulders and Boyle has been suspended for the first 10 games of 2016 because of a second violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
In addition to signing Watson, the Ravens also gave restricted free agent tight end Chase Ford a low-round tender ($1.67 million) despite not playing a down for the Ravens last season.
Add Waller to the mix and the Ravens can nearly field an entire lineup of tight ends. There are nine on the 90-man roster now: Watson, Gillmore, Williams, Boyle (who can take part in offseason activities and training camp while suspended), Ford, Waller, Harold Spears, Konrad Reuland and Dennis Pitta, although Watson's signing is yet another strong suggestion that Pitta's career is probably over. Pitta is expected to be released post-June 1 if he does not retire.
Can Waller emerge from this crowd and make the team?
Waller, a sixth-round pick out of Georgia Tech last year, played in six games last season and made two catches for 18 yards before going on injured reserve in November with a hamstring injury. He also saw a lot of action on special teams.
At 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds, Waller is an attractive target and has more speed than the typical tight end. Waller's 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine (4.46) was faster than any tight ends at the Combine that year. (Maxx Williams ran a 4.78.)
"We just feel like a 250-pound wide receiver who can run like he can has a chance to maybe grow into a tight end," coach John Harbaugh said. "And he has embraced it."
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