The Baltimore Ravens’ roster is far from finalized but in their last round of cuts, they made some surprising moves in terms of keeping certain players and letting go of others.
Here are some of the top observations that can be gleaned from the decision making that went into compiling their initial 53-man roster:
High Value of Special Teams Remains
Given their incredible depth at safety and more pressing needs elsewhere on the roster, one of the biggest surprises was that the Ravens decided to keep five inside linebackers. After the impressive training camp and preseason that undrafted rookie Josh Ross had, many believed that he had beat out third-year pro Kristian Welch for what was widely thought would be the fourth and final spot on the depth chart at their position. However, the team opted to hang on to both and cut promising young players at other positions that might and likely won’t clear waivers such as dynamic defensive back Ar’Darius Washington and promising defensive tackle Isaiah Mack.
Welch had a strong performance as a defender in the team’s preseason finale on August 27, 2022, in which he recorded 2.5 sacks and nine total tackles but he was one of their core special teams players last year and will likely be predominately used in that role again in 2022. There is the possibility of the team using Welch as a hybrid edge defender and using him and Malik Harrison at the SAM outside linebacker spot until Tyus Bower is eligible to return. If not, expect Ross and the others ahead of him on the depth chart to take the overwhelming majority of defensive snaps at inside linebacker.
Love for Tight Ends is Evident
The retention that was equally as unexpected as Welch’s was that of fourth-year tight end Josh Oliver who many expected to be the odd man out given how bright rookie Isaiah Likely shined during the preseason, his fellow first-year pro Charlie Kolar didn’t suffer a season-ending injury, and the return of veteran Nick Boyle to action albeit on a limited basis. However, the Ravens must have not wanted to risk having Oliver claimed off waivers and still have their desire to carry four healthy tight ends into the regular season met with Kolar expected to be placed on short-term injured reserve. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s scheme heavily features the position group and the fact that the team kept as many tight ends as they did wide receivers with five a piece at final cutdown reflects that.
Expect Move at Outside Linebacker
The Ravens were already extremely light with healthy options at edge defender before the final round of cuts and the team decided to keep just three on the initial 53-man roster. Even though they are likely to bring back veteran Steven Means after doing some roster configuration with injured players, expect the team to turn to the waiver wire and monitor who gets cut around the league to address their lack of depth. Finding a suitable replacement for second-year pro Daelin Hayes at the SAM spot after he was waived with an injury designation, is essential since he was the only player on the roster that could hold down the fort at Bowser’s spot until his return. The team could also opt to add more talent at the RUSH spot and shift their approach to generating pressure with four pure pass rushers and leaving underneath to intermediate coverage responsibilities to their safeties and inside linebackers.
Offensive Line Depth a Priority
The unraveling of the Ravens’ offensive line due to a lack of depth, especially at offensive tackle, coincided with the derailment of their 2021 season. They now have three or more options at all five spots along the offensive including at center where they kept third-year pro Trystan Colon at center. At guard, they held onto all three of the players that were competing for the starting spot on the left side with Tyre Phillips, Ben Powers, and Ben Cleveland. Their offensive tackle depth is much improved as well with the additions of Morgan Moses and Daniel Faalele at right tackle and the return of Ja’Wuan and Ronnie Stanley from injury at left tackle.
Tyler Badie Odd Man Out
The sixth-round rookie running back didn’t have a roster spot solidified entered training camp and the preseason but he was expected to make the team nonetheless. After not consistently flashing, in the same way, he did during the offseason program, Badie was beaten out by veteran Mike Davis and fourth-year pro Justice Hill. The Ravens were expected to carry four running backs into the season with Gus Edwards out for at least the first four weeks after being placed on the reserve/PUP list and with J.K. Dobbins likely to have his touches limited to start the year. Badie became expendable with the team reportedly reached an agreement to sign veteran Kenyan Drake on August 30, 2022. The team still might be able to sign the former University of Missouri standout on the practice squad if he clears waivers.
Expect Return of Key Vested Veterans
While the vast majority of the players that were released on Tuesday won’t end up back on the Ravens’ roster, certain members of the contingent will. It is not uncommon for veteran players on non-guaranteed contracts for minimal salaries to have unofficial ‘handshake’ agreements to return to the teams that cut them shortly after their release. These deals allow the team to carry over players dealing with short term injuries on the active roster for minimum required time required to place them on non-season-ending injured reserve. Three such players that are likely to be brought back on the team in the coming days are Means, safety Tony Jefferson, and defensive end Brent Urban.
No Surprises at Wide Receiver
Despite showing some flashes during training camp and the preseason, none of the Ravens’ undrafted rookies and less heralded players at the position showed enough to unseat second-year pro Tylan Wallace and recently signed veteran Demarcus Robinson for one of the last spots on the depth chart. Wallace missed the last two preseason games with a knee sprain and wasn’t standing out much before he did but he was a core special teams player and showed some promise as pass catcher down the stretch as rookie last season. Robinson had epic debut in the preseason finale and now many fans are just as excited as the coaching staff about the impact he can have in the offense. Expect the Ravens to attempt to sign one or more of their released wideouts to the practice squad in Shemar Bridges, Raliegh Webb, Makai Polk, and Binjimen Victor if they aren’t claimed.