Ravens' challenge: Battling odds (and Jimmy G) for top free-agent receivers

The Ravens may not have the resources, or the cache, to go after a playmaking receiver like Allen Robinson. Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

After Jarvis Landry was traded to the Cleveland Browns on Friday, the speculation began about who would become the Baltimore Ravens' top free-agent wide receiver target.

Allen Robinson? Sammy Watkins?

The Ravens' salary-cap situation, history and absence of a Jimmy Garoppolo suggests expectations should be tempered.

Salary cap: Baltimore has $4.3 million in cap room, which ranks as the fifth-lowest in the NFL, according to Over The Cap. It's challenging to sign top free agents with limited cap room, and it's even more difficult when the other interested teams don't have such financial hurdles.

The Cleveland Browns ($82.7 million), San Francisco 49ers ($70 million), Chicago Bears ($50.2 million), Jacksonville Jaguars ($35.4 million), Buffalo Bills ($32.2 million) and Carolina Panthers ($24.9 million) all want to improve their targets in the passing game and all have at least six times as much cap room. The Ravens can create more space by cutting players and restructuring contracts, but it will be tough for them to outbid those teams.

History: The Ravens aren't known for splurging on outside weapons for quarterback Joe Flacco. Since 2010, the most Baltimore has ever spent on a wide receiver was $8.3 million per season for Anquan Boldin. But that new deal came after Baltimore had traded for Boldin. This doesn't inspire much confidence that Baltimore will sign a coveted wide receiver like Watkins (who is predicted to receive one year, $13 million) or Robinson (one year, $10 million).

Jimmy Garoppolo: Even if everything was equal, the Ravens still might have trouble getting a top free-agent wide receiver. Garoppolo can become a great recruiting tool for the 49ers. He won all five of his starts after getting traded to San Francisco last season, throwing seven touchdowns and five interceptions (96.2 rating).

"I think this buzz about Jimmy Garoppolo is palpable," ESPN analyst Field Yates said. "I think this buzz that these players are feeling is very real. They want to go play with him right now. They view him as potentially the next great thing at quarterback."

Flacco doesn't carry the same cache anymore. Five years removed from being the Super Bowl MVP, Flacco ranked No. 25 in passer rating with 80.4, which trailed Jay Cutler and Jacoby Brissett.

This doesn't mean Robinson or Watkins won't come to Baltimore. The Ravens had $13.8 in cap space entering free agency last season, and they surprisingly re-signed defensive tackle Brandon Williams ($24.5 million guaranteed) and safety Tony Jefferson ($19 million guaranteed). "We’ve done a lot with a little [cap space]," owner Steve Bisciotti said.

Baltimore, though, isn't considered the favorite to land Robinson or Watkins. The Ravens could try to get someone from the second tier like Paul Richardson (Seattle), Donte Moncrief (Indianapolis) or Marqise Lee (Jacksonville). The next tier includes Danny Amendola (New England), Taylor Gabriel (Atlanta) or Terrelle Pryor (Washington).

The key for the Ravens is not getting shut out for the second straight start of the offseason. Baltimore lost out on Pierre Garcon because the 49ers were able to front-load the deal with so much cap space, and the Ravens couldn't convince Brandon Marshall to leave New York.

Other targets will become available this week, when teams cut players to free up cap space. Green Bay might not be able to fit both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb under its cap. Rishard Matthews (Tennessee), Jermaine Kearse (New York Jets) and Tavon Austin (Los Angeles Rams) all soon could get released.

Baltimore desperately needs wide receivers because Mike Wallace is a free agent, Jeremy Maclin could get cut and Breshad Perriman has been a first-round bust. The problem for the Ravens is there are other teams who need receivers just as badly and have more resources to pursue them.