BALTIMORE — He has been a first-round draft pick and a disappointment, a Super Bowl champion and a journeyman.
Nelson Agholor crammed several careers worth of experience into his first eight NFL seasons. Could he find satisfaction in a ninth?
Jump to Cincinnati last Sunday afternoon, a divisional dogfight between the Ravens and the defending AFC North champion Bengals. With 66,015 fans raging above him and Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie in hot pursuit, Agholor torqued to the right so Lamar Jackson’s impeccable spiral would drop neatly over his outside shoulder for a touchdown. Amid all that sound and fury, the veteran wide receiver had carved out not just a game-winning play but a glimpse of beauty.
“That was a well-choreographed thing,” Agholor said. “That’s the best part of what we do — the passion and the joy that comes with a game-changing play. There’s nothing like it.”
He improvised a “goofy” dance, arms swinging, to celebrate. His rookie compadre, Zay Flowers, stopped to appreciate his view of the lovely connection. As a Bengals defender attempted to interrupt with a bit of trash talk, Flowers cut him off. “Look, touchdown,” he said.
It was a snapshot to sum up how well Agholor has adapted to the Ravens. He’s a mentor to younger receivers. He’s a model practice player. And on any given Sunday, he might just lead the team in catches and receiving yards, as he did against the Bengals.
Amid the blur of offseason moves that turned the Ravens’ offensive world on its head — Todd Monken replacing Greg Roman as coordinator, Odell Beckham Jr.’s arrival, Jackson signing an extension, Flowers coming via the first round of the draft — the addition of Agholor felt like small potatoes. Given that the $3.25 million deal was announced in March, when Beckham was still a free agent and Jackson was about to go public with a trade demand, some fans saw it as a letdown.
But the Ravens liked the fact that the 30-year-old wide receiver came to Baltimore a little beaten up by NFL life. Here was an adult who would relate to everyone in the room and who would be overqualified as a No. 4 wide receiver.
“That’s kind of an underrated signing,” coach John Harbaugh said after the first night of the draft, when Jackson and Flowers were commanding all the headlines.
“There was a substance and maturity to him that I just felt we’ve been lacking at that position,” general manager Eric DeCosta told The Athletic months later.
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