With the Ravens setting their initial 53-man roster by 4 p.m. Tuesday, general manager Eric DeCosta must consider the status of injured players and will likely take some calculated risks to try to optimize his team’s makeup entering the 2023 season.
It’s important to remember the roster formulated on Tuesday is unlikely to be the same one that will welcome the Houston Texans to Baltimore for the Sept. 10 opener. In addition to potential trades or outside additions, any player a team wants to place on injured reserve and keep eligible to return later in the season — after missing at least four games — must be on the initial 53-man roster, which can lead to roster gymnastics involving vested veterans who aren’t subject to waivers. In other words, the Ravens — who are no strangers to taking advantage of roster rules and exceptions — won’t be afraid to think outside the box if they believe it gives them an edge down the line.
Below is a look at the final projection of the initial 53-man roster that’s bound to change as early as Wednesday:
IN: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley
OUT: Josh Johnson, Anthony Brown
Skinny: Huntley’s hamstring injury and Johnson’s strong play in the final two preseason games made this competition closer than it was shaping up to be in mid-August, but I’m still betting on Huntley’s superior athleticism and better performance in practices winning out.
RUNNING BACKS (4)
IN: J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, Keaton Mitchell
OUT: Melvin Gordon, Owen Wright
Skinny: Mitchell’s speed and long-term potential give him the nod over Gordon, whose skill set at this stage of his career shouldn’t be too difficult to find on the open market or another team’s practice squad if a need arises later this season.
WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
IN: Odell Beckham Jr., Rashod Bateman, Zay Flowers, Nelson Agholor, Devin Duvernay, Tylan Wallace
OUT: James Proche, Laquon Treadwell, Sean Ryan, Tarik Black, Dontay Demus
Skinny: Though the Ravens will likely want to add a young option or two to their practice squad, Wallace distinguished himself from the rest of the pack in the competition for the No. 6 wide receiver job.
TIGHT ENDS & FULLBACKS (4)
IN: Mark Andrews, Isaiah Likely, Charlie Kolar, Patrick Ricard
OUT: Travis Vokolek, Ben Mason
Skinny: Some have pondered the possibility of Baltimore moving on from Ricard — which would signal a distinct changing of the guard from Greg Roman to Todd Monken — but the four-time Pro Bowl fullback should remain useful even in a reduced role.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
IN: Ronnie Stanley, John Simpson, Tyler Linderbaum, Kevin Zeitler, Morgan Moses, Patrick Mekari, Daniel Faalele, Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, Ben Cleveland
OUT: Sam Mustipher, David Sharpe, Tashawn Manning, TyKeem Doss, Jake Guidone, Jaylon Thomas
NON-FOOTBALL INJURY LIST: Andrew Vorhees
Skinny: Aumavae-Laulu has struggled recently to the point that the Ravens can’t feel great about entering Week 1 with him as the primary backup guard, which opens the door for Cleveland to edge Mustipher for the final offensive line spot if they don’t find a way to keep both.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (4)
IN: Michael Pierce, Justin Madubuike, Broderick Washington, Travis Jones
OUT: *Brent Urban, Angelo Blackson, Rayshad Nichols, Kaieem Caesar, Trey Botts
Skinny: The bet is Urban having a handshake agreement to re-sign after Baltimore keeps cornerback Damarion Williams on the initial 53-man roster and places him on IR on Wednesday, keeping him eligible to return later this season from ankle surgery.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)
IN: Roquan Smith, Patrick Queen, Trenton Simpson, Malik Harrison, Del’Shawn Phillips
OUT: Josh Ross, Kristian Welch
Skinny: Harrison’s ability to play strong-side outside linebacker and Philips’ strong summer give them the nod over Ross and Welch, who could still fit into Baltimore’s special-teams plans as practice-squad elevations if they pass through waivers.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)
IN: Odafe Oweh, Jadeveon Clowney, David Ojabo, Tavius Robinson
OUT: Jeremiah Moon, Malik Hamm, Kelle Sanders
NON-FOOTBALL INJURY LIST: Tyus Bowser
Skinny: Between Bowser still being sidelined with a knee injury — John Harbaugh wouldn’t say Saturday if he’d be activated this week — and Ojabo not standing out this preseason, Clowney’s arrival only goes so far to ease fair concerns about this group and the pass rush.
IN: Marlon Humphrey, Rock Ya-Sin, Ronald Darby, Brandon Stephens, Kevon Seymour, Jalyn Armour-Davis, Kyu Kelly, *Damarion Williams
OUT: Arthur Maulet, Tae Hayes, Corey Mayfield Jr.
Skinny: Quantity rules here as the Ravens try to find enough quality to hold down the fort in the secondary until Humphrey is able to return from his recent foot surgery, but every cornerback behind him carries some degree of question or concern.
IN: Marcus Williams, Kyle Hamilton, Geno Stone, Ar’Darius Washington
OUT: Daryl Worley, DeAndre Houston-Carson, Jeremy Lucien
Skinny: The versatile Stephens provides additional depth to this position group, and Worley and Houston-Carson figure to be among the priority targets to try to add to the practice squad, especially since these veterans aren’t subject to waivers.
IN: Justin Tucker, Jordan Stout, Tyler Ott
NON-FOOTBALL INJURY LIST: Nick Moore
Skinny: The Ravens never did bring in an extra kicker to share reps as they’ve done in previous summers, but the three specialists made it through the preseason games unscathed.