Ravens Final Roster Construction
Cut day has arrived. Thirty-seven players who were on the Ravens roster for their final pre-season game were either waived, released or placed on the Injured Reserve. Some of these players will likely end up on the Ravens Practice Squad and some may even find their way back on the Ravens roster at some point this season. Some of the moves are surprising and some were expected, and there may still be some moves to come, but we now have a pretty good idea of what the team is going to look like so what can we learn from this? Well, I have a few thoughts.
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Let’s get started with one of the biggest surprises of the Ravens cuts which starts with the release of DT Willie Henry. The 4th year defensive tackle was a player many of us expected to be a major contributor on the defense this season. I even pegged him as a potential breakout player given his strong play in 2017. However, it seems that the emergence of Patrick Ricard as an interior pass-rusher allowed the Ravens to move on from Henry who may not have every fully recovered after a season-ending injury in 2018. The other interesting aspect of the Henry release is that the Ravens are only carrying five DTs on their roster. Perhaps this is in recognition of a league that is more pass-focused seemingly every year and the need for carrying big run stuffing DTs has diminished. I would expect for the Ravens to use their bigger-bodied OLBs like Pernell McPhee and rookie Jaylon Ferguson as pass-rushing DTs in many of their sub packages, especially in 3rd and long type situations. Still, the Ravens lack of depth at DT is startling and if the position gets hit by injuries it could cause some issues down the line.
Another interesting move by the Ravens was the decision to carry 6 WRs and only 3 RBs. This is somewhat surprising given the team’s desire to be a very run heavy offense, and while the three RBs that the Ravens kept all look like quality backs, one injury could throw a big wrench in the team’s plans. RB Kenneth Dixon, who has flashed impressive talent in fairly limited opportunities, landed on the IR where he will likely finish his career as a Raven.
At WR, the Ravens decided to keep both the veteran Seth Roberts and the younger Jaleel Scott who flashed his potential throughout the preseason. Perhaps this decision was partially fueled by the ability of the WRs to contribute on special teams and on the availability of 1st round pick Marquise Brown, who may not be ready for a full workload as he works his way back from a foot injury. If I had to guess, the Ravens top three WRs heading into the season will be Willie Snead, Chris Moore and Miles Boykin with Marquise Brown starting the season on a limited snap count.
The Ravens also made a late move trading away Jermaine Eluemunor and a 6th round draft pick to the Patriots for a 4th round pick. At one point Eluemunor looked as if he would be the Ravens starting LG, but the opportunity to pick up some draft capital made him expendable. It also helps that the Ravens had several players vying to start at LG, with none of them showing enough to run away with the job. Veteran James Hurst may get the nod to start the season as he has by the most experience of any of the Ravens’ options, but Bradley Bozeman or 5th round pick Ben Powers could also be in play for week 1. Trading Eluemunor also allowed the Ravens to keep 2nd year OT Gregory Senat and rookie UDFA Patrick Mekari.
Cut day also shined some light on the Ravens situation at CB as the team officially placed Tavon Young on the Injured Reserve, ending his season after he signed a big contract extension in the offseason. While it is an unfortunate development for Young and the Ravens, he will hopefully be able to come back in 2020 at full strength. The Ravens also released reserve CB Maurice Canady while keeping rookie 4th round pick Iman Marshall on the initial 53 man roster despite Marshall dealing with an injury. It’s possible that Marshall may head to the IR with a designated to return label depending on the extent of his injury. The Ravens still have excellent dept at the position with Marlon Humphrey and Jimmy Smith starting outside, and Brandon Carr most likely moving inside to play in the slot. Anthony Averett and Marshall provide solid depth behind the starters while Justin Bethel and Cyrus Jones will work mostly on special teams.
Overall, the Ravens seem to have made a concerted effort to go with youth and upside over one-year veteran options or players on the last year of their rookie deals. It’s a promising sign that the team is willing to put a lot of faith in young players, and a continuation of a mindset that was seen in the off-season as the front office allowed veteran players to leave in free agency. There is certainly a real chance that some of these moves will look questionable in hindsight, but it appears that first year GM Eric DeCosta and Head Coach John Harbaugh have an aggressive plan for 2019 and for years to come, and that is very good news for Ravens fans.
Gabe is an avid fan of the NFL and Ravens football. He grew up in Westminster, MD, and attended college at Johns Hopkins University majoring in Biology. He earned his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and now works as a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles where he studies cartilage development and cancer. Gabe has appeared as a guest on 105.7 The Fan.