For better or for worse, the NFL elected to completely change the kickoff for the 2024 season. And, just as teams prepare for a much more dynamic play, the Ravens added a dynamic returner in Deonte Harty.

Harty signed a one-year contract for $1.3 million, according to Spotrac. His cap hit is $1.1525 million, which includes his guaranteed $167,000 signing bonus and $985,500 of his salary.

The wide receiver, who is heading into his sixth season, was selected to the All-Pro and the Pro Bowl teams as a rookie with the New Orleans Saints for his skills as a returner. Harty, who is from Middle River and is an Archbishop Curley graduate, signed with the Saints as a rookie undrafted free agent in 2019.

That year Harty’s contributions on offense were limited, but he played a big role on special teams. He returned 24 kicks and 36 punts. He averaged 26.83 yards per kick return and 9.39 yards per punt return. His first career touchdown was a 53-yard punt return.

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The following year, he missed six games (three following a DUI arrest), but he saw an increased role on offense while still returning kicks and punts. He had an even bigger role in 2021 before missing 12 games in 2022, his final season with the Saints.

In 2023, Harty returned to the field wearing a Buffalo Bills jersey. He primarily returned punts. Harty was on a two-year, $9.5 million contract, according to Spotrac. He finished the season with 15 catches for 150 yards and a touchdown across 16 games. He also returned one kick for 7 yards and 26 punts for an average of 12.42 yards.

Harty’s 96-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins sparked a fourth-quarter comeback that helped the Bills secure the AFC East division title.

However, Harty was released by the cash-strapped Bills on March 6.

Now, he returns home to the Ravens, who lost their primary returner when wide receiver Devin Duvernay signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency.

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Wide receiver Tylan Wallace, who stepped in for Duvernay, remains on the roster. Like Harty, Wallace returned a punt for a touchdown that helped secure an important win for the Ravens. His 76-yard return in overtime gave the team a 37-31 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.

With the new kickoff rules, returners can no longer fair catch the ball and kickers are discouraged from kicking touchbacks. Instead, they are supposed to kick into a landing zone, where one or two returners wait. Meanwhile, the others on the field from both teams must wait until the ball hits the ground or the returner before making a move. As The Banner broke down here, this will make the ability to read and react more important. Depending on how coach John Harbaugh reacts to the new rules, he could use either a wide receiver or running back there.

But with Duvernay, another Pro Bowl special teams player, gone, Harty gives Harbaugh another experienced option.

Harty’s signing also has the benefit of adding depth to the receiving corps, where Wallace was the only backup option. Before Harty’s signing, the Ravens had only Nelson Agholor, Rashod Bateman and Zay Flowers ahead of Wallace, and they often use three wide receivers at once. They’ll need to add to the room, but Harty gives them an option who has played more offense than Wallace (who was targeted twice last season compared to Harty’s 21 targets).

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