Time to 'Bear' down: Ravens' priority should be adding Cameron Meredith

ORLANDO, Fla. -- At the NFL owners meetings this week, the Baltimore Ravens need to either sign wide receiver Cameron Meredith to an offer sheet or approach the Chicago Bears about a deal for the restricted free agent.

Meredith not only represents the best option in furthering Baltimore's offseason upgrade of the wide receiver position, he can become the pivotal piece.

With a good combination of size and speed, Meredith has the potential to be the Ravens' No. 1 receiver.

Meredith, 25, visited the Ravens this past Thursday and left without an offer sheet. This doesn't necessarily mean Meredith is off Baltimore's radar.

The Ravens' challenge would be figuring out a way to get him to Baltimore. The Ravens could sign Meredith to an offer sheet, especially when he received an original tender (which means Baltimore wouldn't have to give up compensation to Chicago if the Bears decline to match the offer sheet). But the Bears, who nearly have triple the amount of cap space as the Ravens, would financially be able to match any Baltimore offer.

The other route is a trade. The Ravens could send a later-round pick to the Bears for Meredith. Baltimore would get a difference-making receiver at a modest price of $1.9 million, and Chicago would receive a draft pick for a player it could've lost for nothing in return.

This would be another creative move for a Ravens team that has done an admirable job in changing the look of one of the least productive wide receiver groups in the NFL last year despite limited cap space. Baltimore added a tough and experienced possession receiver in Michael Crabtree. The Ravens found a more versatile deep threat in John Brown.

What Baltimore needs now is the receiver who is more of a complete package. Meredith has speed (ran a 40-yard dash at his 2015 pro day in 4.42 seconds), size (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) and outstanding double moves.

The question mark with Meredith is injury and the lack of a proven track record. Meredith tore the ACL in his left knee in late August and missed the entire 2017 season. He expects to be ready for the start of this year's training camp, but he's unsure if he’ll be able to participate in the offseason spring workouts.

Meredith, who didn't play receiver until his redshirt junior season at Illinois State, has had only one productive season at the NFL level. In 2016, he caught 66 passes for 888 yards and four touchdowns. This followed an 11-catch season as an undrafted rookie.

Still, Meredith has the attributes to be a highly productive target. He's got a great catch radius, impressive body control and toughness to come away with the ball in close coverage.

There are other ways for Baltimore to improve its supporting cast for quarterback Joe Flacco. Dez Bryant could get cut by the Dallas Cowboys. Restricted free agent Willie Snead visited the Ravens this past Thursday. Eric Decker and Dontrelle Inman remain on the free-agent market.

But none have the qualities to boost the Ravens' receivers like Meredith.