Final cuts down to the 53-man roster will take place by 4pm on Tuesday, August 31st. All players that have been waived or terminated can be claimed or signed by other teams in a 24-hour window. On 4pm the next day, September 1st, teams can start to sign any unclaimed or unsigned players to their respective practice squads.
Much of this is overshadowed by the unfortunate news we received about J.K. Dobbins who was carted off the field Saturday evening with what would later be revealed as an ACL tear, ending his 2021 season. Dobbins, like linebacker L.J. Fort, will be placed on injured reserve meaning it opens a spot on the 53-man roster for one of the bubble players at that position which I’ll get into during this breakdown. Even if they could, Dobbins and Fort will not be eligible to return to the roster this season as only players placed on IR after making the 53-man roster may return after a minimum three-week stint under the revised rules during COVID in 2020, that will remain in place for the upcoming season.
The Ravens depth makes it hard to predict who will make the roster because there are players you want to see on the 53-man roster but overloading at one position makes another position thin. Players who don’t make the final cut have to go through waivers (except for vested veterans who can sign with any team) unclaimed for a 24-hour period before the Ravens can sign them to the practice squad. There have been a few bubble players who have shown well in camp and in the preseason games. If you really think you have something there, you would hate for another team to scoop them up in the 24-hour waiver period.
Furthermore, under the COVID rules, there are no service time restrictions on who you can place on the practice squad. Practice squads are made up of 16 guys rather than the traditional 10, and Tuesday of each week, you can designate four players that are protected, that can’t be poached by another team. That makes it even tougher to pick the right guys because if a team claims someone you hoped to stash, they can keep them protected week in and week out.
The Ravens will release, or injury designate 27 guys by Tuesday’s deadline, only 11 won’t be retained in any fashion whatsoever. This process has already started with the Ravens trading rookie defensive back, Shaun Wade, to the Patriots, and offensive lineman, Greg Mancz, to the Dolphins. Plus, the upcoming move of J.K. Dobbins to Injured reserve, and the likely move of Ja’Wuan James to the Reserve-Non-Football Injury list. Nick Boyle has been on the PUP list since camp started and is a candidate to remain there if the Ravens think he needs six more weeks to rehab his knee. At the start of camp Boyle was projected to be ready by week 1.
I’m sure if the Ravens had only 45 guys they really liked, this exercise would be simple. Wait for teams to make their cuts and fill in your roster with them. But the Ravens are likely a team other teams will look at the cuts very closely, just because they always get something out of the last guy on the roster.
I’ll give you a positional breakdown and explain given the Ravens depth, why getting to 53 is so hard to determine.
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Locks: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley
Cut: Trace McSorley
Not a hard decision here. With their depth, The Ravens only need to carry two QBs. With McSorley’s back issues holding him out for “several weeks”, he should be able to slide through waivers, and back onto the Ravens practice squad. I think he would be one of the four protected each week with an unvaccinated Lamar Jackson potentially missing 1-3 games depending on the timing of a COVID-19 test, with a positive result on an unvaccinated player calling for a 10-days away from the team. Having been in the Ravens system for three years now, McSorley could prove more valuable than someone off the street.
Locks: Gus Edwards, Ty’Son Williams
Bubble: Justice Hill, Nate McCrary
IR: J.K. Dobbins
Tough decision on the bubble here. It was a three-man bubble with Dobbins and Edwards previously locks. Williams and McCrary have shown some skills in their preseason action where Hill hasn’t shown much, is liked for his special teams, but also has been dealing with an ankle injury. Williams specifically had a highlight reel TD run against Carolina. The Ravens are familiar with picking up other teams practice squad running backs and having success there. Alex Collins a few years back. Gus Edwards is their own UDFA turned practice squad player turned major player on the offense, now turned starter. They did keep four RBs on the 53-man roster when they broke camp last season. But that could allow other positions to become thin.
Hill was also held out of the last two games with an ankle injury. But if you try to slip him through waivers, a team probably clams a 2019 fourth round pick, just to see. Hill probably makes the team over McCrary if they go with three RBs on the 53-man rather than four.
Lock: Patrick Ricard
Bubble: Ben Mason
Mason has lined up specifically as a fullback this preseason, but then as a running back in the second half of the final preseason game. The Ravens likely did not want to put Ty’Son Williams in any more risk once they got the bad news about Dobbins. Maybe he’s a special teamer. But I’ll continue to say that I never understood this draft pick. You don’t want to risk losing a fifth-round pick trying to fit them through waivers and onto your practice squad. But I don’t see the fit. Perhaps IR is in the cards, and he redshirts this year. Or since most teams don’t employ a fullback, the Ravens feel he can make it through waivers and be an asset on the scout team.
Locks: Rashod Bateman, Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins, Devin Duvernay, James Proche, Tylan Wallace.
Bubble: Miles Boykin
Cut: Jaylon Moore, Binjiman Victor, Deon Cain, Devin Gray, Siosi Mariner
Another tough decision with Boykin. James Proche made the most of his opportunities this camp and might be the teams most improved player. The Ravens herald Boykin as a great run blocker. But he hasn’t been on the field to prove his worth. Keeping seven WRs isn’t out of the question, but I think that also, makes you thin at other positions.
There is also the issue with Rashod Bateman and his groin injury. He is supposed to be back “in September”. But being a rookie, with a 17th game added to the schedule, and considering the lingering nature of soft tissue injuries, I would IR Bateman after the 53-man roster is set. With revised COVID roster rules, any number of players placed on IR can return after three weeks. That would make Bateman eligible for week 4 @ Denver on October 3rd. Would Boykin slide through waivers, and be promoted in a corresponding move? Does it matter?
None of the “cut” receivers here move the needle for me, probably all clear waivers, a couple retained for the practice squad. Cain had a couple drops in the final preseason tune up. Victor and Gray were both checked for concussions in the game as well.
Locks: Mark Andrews, Josh Oliver
Tough decision: Nick Boyle (PUP)
Bubble: Eric Tomlinson
Cut: Tony Poljan
Despite Oliver coughing up the ball in the Carolina game, I think he’s locked up the 3rd TE job. Which could be the 2nd TE job depending on the status of Nick Boyle. It’s looking less likely that he will be ready for week 1 after a “clean-up” procedure on his surgically repaired knee.
Boyle can be added to the 53-man roster which would remove him the PUP list, meaning the Ravens envision him returning rather soon. Or he can be moved to the Reserve-PUP list where he would miss at minimum, the first six weeks if his knee rehab takes longer than thought. In a corresponding move, Tomlinson would likely make the team as the 3rd TE over Poljian, both considered blocking TEs. If Boyle stays, Tomlinson and Poljan likely clear waivers and head to the practice squad.
Side note: If/when Oliver indeed makes the 53-man roster, the Ravens send their seventh-round pick in 2022 to the Jaguars.
Locks: (Starters) Ronnie Stanley (LT), Ben Powers (LG), Bradley Bozeman (C), Kevin Zeitler (RG), Alejandro Villanueva (RT)
Locks: (Reserves) Ben Cleveland (G), Patrick Mekari (C/G/T), Tyre Phillips (G/T)
Bubble: Michael Schofield (G/T), Ben Bredeson (G)
Cut: Foster Sarrell (T), Adrian Ealy (T), Trystan Colon (C)
Non-Football Injury List: Ju’Wuan James (T)
Saturday night’s final preseason game showed us the starting O-line for the first drive of the game. Ben Powers appears to have won the battle at left guard. Ben Cleveland missed the first two games with a concussion but had returned to practice this past week and played LG coming out of the half against the Football Team. Still a couple weeks until kickoff for real, but Cleveland is behind, for now. A rookie who hasn’t gotten the reps.
I think it might be wise to keep nine O-lineman on the 53-man considering that preseason has showed us the depth behind the starters is not great at all, besides Cleveland. They’ll want to keep the versatile guys. Maybe that gives a veteran in Schofield an edge. But there is also no guaranteed money tied to Schofield so cutting his is easy. Maybe they keep second year guard Ben Bredeson.
Ju’Wuan James is rehabbing an Achillies injury he suffered away from football activities as a member of the Broncos. They terminated him and when the Ravens signed the right tackle, John Harbaugh claimed that James could return in November or December. That timeline, which hasn’t been asked about or revisited recently that I can tell, means he won’t be an option for the 53-man, and will go to the Reserve-NFI List, with some similar rules as those placed on the PUP List where possibly Nick Boyle heads as mentioned before.
Locks: Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, Derek Wolfe, Justin Madubuike, Broderick Washington
Bubble: Justin Ellis
Cut: Chris Smith, Jovan Swann, Aaron Crawford
Is five players is plenty for a 3-4 front, with Madubuike and Washington both getting a lot of praise this camp? Ellis, could go either way. Where do you take away from by keeping a backup nose tackle?
Locks: Patrick Queen, Malik Harrison, Chris Board, Kristian Welch
Cut: Otaro Alaka
L.J. Fort was assigned to IR with a torn ACL, opening the door for Welch, who was part of the practice squad in 2020. Alaka started camp on the PUP list, worked out a little when he came off, but hasn’t been on the field in several weeks. His time is up.
Locks: Tyus Bowser, Odafe Oweh, Justin Houston, Daelin Hayes
Bubble: Pernell McPhee, Jaylon Ferguson
At least one, if not both of McPhee and Ferguson are making the team. But as a veteran, I could see McPhee getting the axe here with Justin Houston now in the mix. Ferguson hasn’t shined, but if put through waivers, a team may give him a look. Whereas McPhee may be passed over. Like other veterans recently cut (Andre Smith, Jordan Richards), even though they can, the Ravens may not subject a vet like McPhee to the practice squad.
Locks: Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young, Anthony Averett Brandon Stephens
Bubble: Chris Westry
The Ravens have a versatile secondary as most of these guys can slide into the nickel role, Stephens may be a dime backer like Anthony Levine. Westry is getting some play and the Ravens are so happy with the depth that they traded 2021 fifth round pick Shaun Wade.
Locks: DeShon Elliot, Chuck Clark, Anthony Levine, Geno Stone
Bubble: Nigel Warrior, ArDarius Washington
Again, tough decisions. Geno Stone picked off two balls in the first preseason game against New Orleans and seems like the James Proche of the defense. Has made the most of the opportunity in front of him and has secured a spot. Warrior had been getting bumped up ahead of Wade in playing time. Washington is an interesting prospect with a nose for the ball but would be viewed as undersized by conventional wisdom.
At this point I have 47 locks once you include…
Locks: Justin Tucker (K), Sam Koch (P), Nick Moore (LS)
Cut: Jake Verity (K)
Five of my bubble guys are going to make the 53-man.
It will be at least one of the RBs, Justice Hill and/or Nate McCrary
It will be at least one of the OLBs, Pernell McPhee, and/or Jaylon Ferguson
It will be at least one of the DBs, Nigel Warrior, Chris Westry, and/or Ar’Darius Washington
It will be at least one of the TEs, Nick Boyle or Eric Tomlison
That leave one spot. Does Justin Ellis make the roster, a well as only one player from each group here?
Do you risk losing what could be a solid RB, after already losing J.K. Dobbins, to bring on depth in the secondary, even though running the ball is where your offense butters it bread?
Do you risk cutting either a veteran pass rusher in a young linebacker group, or one that still has upside, to keep extra RBs, or secondary depth?
Do you roll with eight O-lineman? Risk losing some versatile guys on waivers so that you can be deeper at RB and deep at pass rush and keep one of the secondary players rising to the occasion?
It’s tough. Almost futile to guess. But, here’s where I would like to see the roster to stand come final cuts
QB – Jackson, Huntley
RB – Edwards, Williams, Hill
FB – Ricard
WR – Bateman, Brown, Watkins, Duvernay, Proche, Wallace
TE – Andrews, Boyle, Oliver
OL – Stanley, Powers, Bozeman, Zeitler, Villanueva, Cleveland, Phillips, Mekari, Schofield
DL – Campbell, Williams, Wolfe, Madubuike, Washington
ILB – Queen, Harrrison, Board, Welch
OLB – Bowser, Oweh, Hayes, Houston, McPhee, Ferguson
CB – Humphrey, Peters, Smith, Young, Averett, Stephens
S – Clark, Elliott, Levine, Stone, Warrior
ST – Tucker, Koch, Moore
Preferred 16-man practice squad: Ar’Darius Washington, Chris Westry, Justin Ellis, Aaron Crawford, Otaro Alaka, Nate McCrarry, Trace McSorely, Ben Mason, Miles Boykin, Binjiman Victor, Jaylon Moore, Ben Bredeson, Trystan Colon, Foster Sarrell, Eric Tomlinson, Tony Poljan,
Cuts: Binjiman Victor, Foster Sarrell, Adrian Ealy, Tony Poljan, Siosi Mariner, Jovan Swann, Chris Smith, Jake Verity
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]