The Ravens have a little over a week to officially cut down their roster to 53 players ahead of the 2020 season. And they’ve got one of the most talented rosters in the entire league to whittle down.
Coach John Harbaugh and his staff will have a lot of difficult choices to make, especially considering the 2020 season won’t have any preseason games to base tough roster choices off of.
Here’s the first crack at what the Ravens’ 53-man roster could look like:
Quarterbacks (3): Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Tyler Huntley (R)
The first two on this list are locks. Jackson is the reigning MVP and Griffin is the clear backup.
The intrigue only lies in the third quarterback competition, which was one of, if not the biggest competition impacted by the lack of a preseason. Meaning, the Ravens will only be able to go off what they see in practice. And the third spot might come as a surprise.
Huntley, a first-team All-PAC-12 quarterback a year ago, has looked mighty comfortable in the Ravens’ offense. Monday at practice, he had two impressive throws — one to wideout Marquise Brown and another back-shoulder throw to tight end Charles Scarff.
If the Ravens are convinced that Huntley has a higher upside than McSorley, then that’s the direction they’ll go. Huntley would extend the team’s streak of keeping an undrafted free agent on the initial 53-man roster to 17 straight seasons.
Harbaugh said the team will likely keep three quarterbacks this season, like they did last year, but due to COVID-19 concerns don’t be surprised if there’s a practice squad quarterback, too. Huntley has played well enough to earn his spot.
Running backs/fullback (5): Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins (R), Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, Patrick Ricard
This was perhaps the easiest position to project, though Hill’s undisclosed injury could muddy the waters.
Assuming Hill’s injury isn’t serious or long-term, this is the direction the Ravens will head in the backfield. Ingram, Dobbins and Ricard are locks, and Edwards and Hill offer unique enough skill sets and would certainly be picked up elsewhere.
For a team that runs as much as the Ravens do, keeping four running backs in the backfield is a luxury other teams won’t be able to afford. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said he likes to have good problems, and this is certainly a good problem to have.
Wide receiver (6): Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Willie Snead IV, Devin Duvernay (R), James Proche (R), Chris Moore
For as much as the wide receiver depth chart is up in the air, the top five spots on the depth chart seem all but decided.
The team’s top three veteran receivers from a year ago (Brown, Boykin, Snead) are locks, as is the speedy Duvernay. Proche has shown excellent hands throughout training camp and figures to be the team’s leading option to return kicks and punts.
The issue, however, is for the sixth spot.
Moore has a fractured finger, an injury that will keep him out for a number of weeks. That opened the door for Jaleel Scott, but Moore’s special teams abilities give him the edge here — even though he hasn’t been on the field. If he has to miss a regular season game or two, that won’t cost him a roster spot on its own.
Tight end (3): Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Charles Scarff
With no offense given to Scarff, this is simply a math equation.
Jacob Breeland was lost for the season and Eli Wolf has missed the last handful of practices. For an undrafted rookie, in 2020 of all years, that’s a significant hindrance to making the roster.
Scarff has made some nice plays in camp, no doubt, including the catch from Huntley that drew praise from pass defense coordinator Chris Hewitt. This trio will likely be the three tight ends for the Ravens.
Offensive line (9): Ronnie Stanley, Bradley Bozeman, Patrick Mekari, D.J. Fluker, Orlando Brown Jr., Matt Skura, Ben Bredeson (R), Tyre Phillips (R), Will Holden
This is another interesting position to project.
With Bredeson and Phillips as locks, along with Mekari and Skura, the Ravens have three depth linemen built into the roster already. That brings the total to eight. The issue is, with the loss of James Hurst, there aren’t any swing tackles on the roster. The Ravens could view Fluker and Phillips as a potential option to play tackle, but if they want a true swing tackle, Holden has the inside track.
The notable cut here is Ben Powers, who was cut due to a numbers game. Unless the Ravens want to hang onto 10 offensive linemen, or nine without a true backup tackle on the roster, Powers is likely the odd-man out.
Offensive total: 26
Defensive line (5): Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe, Brandon Williams, Justin Madubuike (R), Broderick Washington (R)
The Ravens’ starting defensive line is set, as are the backups in Madubuike and Washington.
Baltimore cutting Justin Ellis means they’d have just one true nose tackle on the roster in Williams, but they’ve expressed confidence that a handful of linemen could fill that spot.
With such versatility on the line, including how the outside linebackers factor in, they’ve got options here.
Outside linebacker (5): Matthew Judon, Jaylon Ferguson, Pernell McPhee, Tyus Bowser, Jihad Ward
The Ravens won’t be able to keep any of their rookies currently on the roster here, but they’ve got no clear option to cut in order to add a younger pass-rusher.
Simply, there’s not much debate here as the Ravens hope Ferguson and Bowser take steps forward. Ward can play down with his hand in the dirt, and McPhee showed he can still be productive at the NFL level.
Not having a clear next-in-command with Matthew Judon in a contract year is concerning, but for now, this unit is solid enough.
Inside linebacker (4): Patrick Queen (R), L.J. Fort, Malik Harrison (R), Chris Board
This position was the most significantly upgraded in the offseason, making way for Queen and Harrison in the draft and last year’s mid-season signee in Fort.
Fort could be a significant piece this year, as a lack of preseason games could make for a slow start to Queen and Harrison’s careers. Meaning, Fort could be the stabilizing presence for the two rookies early in the 2020 season.
The intrigue comes in keeping Board over Otaro Alaka, who was one of the toughest cuts to make on this list. With Moore out for a few weeks, the Ravens value of special teamers was the deciding factor here, as Board is a significant special teams contributor.
Additionally, the Ravens can use safety Chuck Clark in the box like they did last season. If the Ravens find a way to keep both Alaka and Board, expect a roster spot to be taken from the safety position.
Cornerback (5): Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Tavon Young, Jimmy Smith, Anthony Averett
This position got a lot clearer with Iman Marshall’s season-ending injury, and a lot more complicated with Earl Thomas’ departure.
Humphrey, Peters, Young and Smith were roster locks, but with Marshall gone for the season, Averett is the clear option as the team’s fifth cornerback. If they want to roll with six, Terrell Bonds, Josh Nurse or Khalil Dorsey could sneak their way onto the roster.
With Smith’s ability to slide to safety like Harbaugh said, they could steal a spot from a safety here and carry a sixth corner with Smith now a bit older and Young returning from missing the entire 2019 season. Truthfully, the final roster spot came down to choosing a sixth cornerback or a fifth safety. For now, the choice is five cornerbacks.
Safety (5): Chuck Clark, DeShon Elliott, Anthony Levine Sr., Geno Stone, Nigel Warrior (R)
No position has been more discussed in the last week than safety, and for good reason.
After Thomas’ release, Elliott stepped into the spotlight alongside Clark as the presumed starting safety tandem. That leaves Levine, a team captain and a Stone, a seventh-round draft choice, as the backup safeties.
Here’s where the calculus without Thomas changes.
If the Ravens were to give Thomas’ roster spot to another position, which they certainly could do, carrying four safeties could be a risky proposition. While hopes are high for Elliott, he’s played just six career games. The team could use another depth option here, which came down to Warrior or special teamer Jordan Richards.
Here, I’ve got the Ravens taking upside and youth with Warrior, though Richards was one of the final cuts.
Defensive total: 24
Special teams (3): Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
There’s no debate here. Meet your 2020 specialists.
Specialists total: 3