The Ravens won’t trim their roster to 53 players for months, but the draft and rookie free-agent signings offer a better idea of what the organization has to work with preparing for the 2020 season.
This exercise will carry more meaning as we advance into the preseason, but my all-too-early look at the roster is based more on track record, contract status, draft standing, and positional need than anticipating improvement or regression from any individual player. We normally get a better idea of where players stand beginning with the snap distribution during organized team activities, but the absence of on-site organized team activities complicates that evaluation, especially for newcomers.
In other words, don’t read too much into who might be deemed a bubble player or a long shot at this point as much will change as the Ravens move closer to the season. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, of course, with certain position groups lacking as much quality depth and other spots enjoying an abundance of talent and likely falling victim to the numbers game.
Though general manager Eric DeCosta, head coach John Harbaugh, and the rest of the staff are cognizant of the numbers at each position, trying to arbitrarily pick a certain number of tight ends or inside linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting a roster. The Ravens always look for reserves who excel on special teams, so coaches will look carefully at players’ other attributes in addition to what they bring to their offensive or defensive positions when filling out the roster.
The numbers in parentheses indicate how many players are currently on the roster at that position. As we move deeper into the spring and summer, I’ll provide updated looks as well as 53-man roster projections at different stages of the preseason.
IN: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III
BUBBLE: Trace McSorley
LONG SHOT: Tyler Huntley
Skinny: The nature of this offense makes it more likely that Baltimore keeps a third quarterback for a third straight year, but the uncertainty of the offseason likely compromises McSorley’s quest to unseat Griffin as the primary backup or the mobile Huntley’s chances of sticking as the No. 3 option.
RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (6)
IN: Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, Patrick Ricard
LONG SHOT: Bronson Rechsteiner
Skinny: The second-round selection of Dobbins makes this a very crowded room and could even prompt a trade if the right offer comes along later this summer, but there’s too much talent, diversity, and value in the top four tailbacks to believe any would be cut from the 53-man roster.
WIDE RECEIVERS (11)
IN: Marquise Brown, Willie Snead, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay, James Proche, Chris Moore
BUBBLE: De’Anthony Thomas, Jaleel Scott
LONG SHOT: Antoine Wesley, Michael Dereus, Jaylon Moore
Skinny: Special teams will ultimately sort out the back end of this position group, but DeCosta trading a 2021 fifth-round pick to draft Proche elevates the roster standing of a sixth-round pick, which is usually viewed as being firmly on the bubble.
TIGHT ENDS (5)
IN: Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle
BUBBLE: Jacob Breeland, Charles Scarff
LONG SHOT: Eli Wolf
Skinny: There’s little doubt the Ravens will want a viable third tight end on the roster after trading former first-round pick Hayden Hurst, but we’ll see whether Scarff’s experience as a 2019 practice-squad member, Breeland’s upside, or even a future veteran signing will prevail in the competition.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (16)
IN: Ronnie Stanley, Orlando Brown Jr., Matt Skura, Bradley Bozeman, Patrick Mekari, D.J. Fluker, Ben Powers, Ben Bredeson, Tyre Phillips
BUBBLE: Andre Smith
LONG SHOT: Daishawn Dixon, R.J. Prince, Will Holden, Trystan Colon-Castillo, Sean Pollard, Evan Adams
Skinny: Fluker’s experience makes him the early favorite to replace the retired Marshal Yanda at right guard in the midst of an uncertain offseason, but there are several young options to try to sort out a cloudy interior offensive picture and a backup tackle must emerge behind Stanley and Brown.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
IN: Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, Derek Wolfe, Justin Madubuike, Broderick Washington
BUBBLE: Daylon Mack, Justin Ellis
LONG SHOT: Aaron Crawford
Skinny: The top five are seemingly set, but a backup nose tackle job could be up for grabs between Mack — who saw only nine defensive snaps as a fifth-round rookie last year — and the 29-year-old Ellis, who played sparingly down the stretch after being signed last November.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS (7)
IN: Patrick Queen, Malik Harrison, L.J. Fort
BUBBLE: Chris Board, Otaro Alaka, Jake Ryan
LONG SHOT: Kristian Welch
Skinny: The complexion of this group changed dramatically with the early selections of Queen and Harrison in last month’s draft, but the competition for a potential fourth inside linebacker spot could be interesting.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (10)
IN: Matthew Judon, Jaylon Ferguson, Pernell McPhee, Jihad Ward, Tyus Bowser
LONG SHOT: Aaron Adeoye, Mike Onuoha, John Daka, Chauncey Rivers, Marcus Willoughby
Skinny: The long-term outlook for this group remains very murky with Judon, McPhee, Ward, and Bowser only under contract through the upcoming season, which opens the door for one of the long shots to force his way into the roster conversation and challenge someone like Bowser for a spot.
IN: Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey, Tavon Young, Jimmy Smith, Anthony Averett
BUBBLE: Iman Marshall
LONG SHOT: Terrell Bonds, Khalil Dorsey, Jeff Hector, Josh Nurse
Skinny: There may not be another team in the league that can match Baltimore’s top four on paper, but the injury history of both Young and Smith still makes it critical to have more quality depth and improves the roster chances of Marshall, who is coming off a disappointing rookie campaign.
IN: Earl Thomas, Chuck Clark, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: DeShon Elliott, Geno Stone, Jordan Richards
LONG SHOT: Nigel Warrior
Skinny: You could argue Elliott and Stone being closer to locks than true bubble players, but injuries have limited the former to just 40 defensive snaps in his first two seasons and assuming a seventh-round pick — even one as interesting as Stone — is safely on a deep roster feels a bit too bold.
IN: Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
LONG SHOT: Nick Moore, Dom Maggio, Nick Vogel
Skinny: There isn’t much to say about this veteran group, but the three youngsters will each be learning from former Pro Bowl selections at their positions, which should improve their chances of catching on with other NFL teams by the end of the preseason.