With mandatory minicamp in the books and the start of training camp only a month away, the Ravens turn their sights toward the preseason and eventually paring the 90-man offseason to 53 by early September.
Few conclusions should be drawn from voluntary organized team activities and three mandatory practices — without live contact — but my all-too-early look at the roster suggests as many as 46 players would be considered safely on the roster if the deadline were to come now. This number is higher than in recent years and reflects both the lack of roster turnover on the defensive side of the ball and Baltimore making seven selections in the first four rounds of this year’s draft.
My rough assessment of the 91 players currently on the roster — German fullback Christopher Ezeala carries a roster exemption — lists 20 on the bubble. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, of course, with some position groups lacking as much quality depth and others enjoying an abundance of talent and likely falling victim to the numbers game.
Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, and the rest of the coaching staff and front office are cognizant of the numbers at each position, simply trying to pinpoint a specific number of tight ends or inside linebackers or wide receivers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting a roster. Of course, the Ravens are looking for reserves who will excel on special teams, so coaches will look carefully at players’ other attributes in addition to what they bring to their specific positions when filling out the end of the roster.
The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that position. As we move into the preseason, I’ll provide updated looks as well as projections of who’s in and who’s out at different stages of the summer.
IN: Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson
BUBBLE: Robert Griffin III
LONG SHOT: Josh Woodrum
Skinny: The Ravens haven’t carried three quarterbacks into the start of a season since 2009, but will Jackson show enough growth to be trusted as the sole backup and will the organization risk not having a third quarterback with the rookie expected to be involved in the offense in a variety of ways?
RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (7)
IN: Alex Collins, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon
LONG SHOT: Gus Edwards, Mark Thompson, De’Lance Turner
ROSTER EXEMPTION: Christopher Ezeala
Skinny: This group of long shots is worth monitoring this summer as Baltimore could still use another back who can either thrive in short-yard situations or make an impact catching passes out of the backfield. Dixon’s status will go a long way in determining whether another back has a chance to stick.
WIDE RECEIVERS (13)
IN: Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead, Chris Moore, Jaleel Scott
BUBBLE: Jordan Lasley, Tim White, Breshad Perriman
LONG SHOT: Andre Levrone, Jaelon Acklin, Janarion Grant, DeVier Posey
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Quincy Adeboyejo
Skinny: Scott appears safe as a fourth-round pick, Lasley carries upside, and White’s return ability helps his cause. However, the Ravens don’t give up on former first-rounders easily and didn’t talk this spring as though they’re ready to move on from Perriman despite the bonus he’s owed early in camp.
TIGHT ENDS (6)
IN: Hayden Hurst, Nick Boyle, Mark Andrews
BUBBLE: Maxx Williams, Vince Mayle
LONG SHOT: Nick Keizer
Skinny: The Ravens hope their rookie draft picks can contribute immediately in the passing game, but tight ends remain a critical part of their run-blocking schemes, which should help Williams’ roster chances. Mayle played extensively on special teams last year, but the numbers here aren’t in his favor.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (15)
IN: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, Matt Skura, James Hurst, Orlando Brown Jr.
BUBBLE: Jermaine Eluemunor, Nico Siragusa, Greg Senat, Bradley Bozeman, Andrew Donnal
LONG SHOT: Maurquice Shakir, Randin Crecelius, Alex Thompson, Justin Evans,
Skinny: The battle for the final two or three line spots will be interesting with Eluemunor having the experience edge over other bubble players. Siragusa will need to prove he’s fully recovered from last summer’s serious knee injury while Senat and Bozeman are interesting developmental rookies.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (11)
IN: Brandon Williams, Willie Henry, Michael Pierce, Chris Wormley, Brent Urban, Carl Davis
BUBBLE: Zach Sieler, Patrick Ricard, Bronson Kaufusi
LONG SHOT: Myles Humphrey, Christian LaCouture
Skinny: This remains one of the roster’s deepest position groups, but Urban and Davis are only under contract through 2018 and have injury histories. Sieler, a seventh-round rookie from Ferris State, looks the part of a 5-technique and could squeeze out the disappointing Kaufusi with a strong preseason.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS (6)
IN: C.J. Mosley, Patrick Onwuasor, Kenny Young
BUBBLE: Albert McClellan, Bam Bradley
LONG SHOT: Alvin Jones
Skinny: Onwuasor remains the favorite to start next to Mosley, but Young will have every opportunity to push for snaps. McClellan has been a standout special-teams player and versatile backup for years, but how well he bounces back from last summer’s torn ACL will be a key in rounding out this group.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (7)
IN: Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams
BUBBLE: Kamalei Correa
LONG SHOT: Chris Board
Skinny: The Ravens have seemed to accept that Correa’s best fit is on the outside, but his versatility will still be the biggest factor in his ability to keep a roster spot. Bowser developing into a well-rounded third outside linebacker behind Suggs and Judon will be critical for this season and the future.
IN: Jimmy Smith, Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, Tavon Young, Maurice Canady, Anthony Averett
BUBBLE: Jaylen Hill, Stanley Jean-Baptiste
LONG SHOT: Darious Williams, Jackson Porter, Bennett Jackson
Skinny: Even with health concerns headlined by Smith’s return from a torn Achilles tendon, it’s difficult to recall the Ravens having many cornerback groups as deep as this one with multiple options outside and inside. Young is a real wild card if he can regain the form he showed as a rookie two years ago.
IN: Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Chuck Clark, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: DeShon Elliott
LONG SHOT: Kai Nacua
Skinny: This group lacks a dynamic center fielder in pass coverage, but the floor remains high with the savvy Weddle and different chess pieces for defensive coordinator Wink Martindale to use in the dime and other sub packages. Elliott’s 6-foot-1, 210-pound frame makes him a rookie to watch this summer.
IN: Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
LONG SHOT: Kaare Vedvik, Trent Sieg
Skinny: There once again appears to be no drama with this veteran group. The Ravens haven’t often carried a second long snapper on the preseason roster in years in which the 32-year-old Cox wasn’t coming back from injury, so Sieg’s presence could be minimally interesting.