With the season-ending knee injury to Nick Boyle in Sunday’s loss at New England, the Ravens have added more experience to their tight end mix by signing veteran Luke Willson to their practice squad.
A longtime member of the Seattle Seahawks, the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Willson appeared in five games this year before being released by the organization with which he’d spent all but one of his eight NFL seasons. More of a blocking tight end, the 30-year-old has made 110 receptions for 1,295 yards and 11 touchdowns in 99 career games. Willson, a 2013 fifth-round pick from Rice, has also spent time with Detroit and Oakland in his career.
Willson joins veteran tight ends Xavier Grimble and Sean Culkin on Baltimore’s practice squad, but the Ravens would seem all but guaranteed to elevate at least one of the three for Sunday’s game against Tennessee. Mark Andrews is the only true tight end on the current 53-man roster, but fullback Patrick Ricard also has some blocking tight end duties in heavy formations.
The Ravens placed Boyle and cornerback Terrell Bonds on injured reserve and promoted safety Geno Stone to the 53-man roster after the rookie seventh-round pick had been a practice-squad elevation in each of the last two weeks. Baltimore still has two open spots on its 53-man roster that can be filled by 4 p.m. Saturday to be eligible to play against the Titans, and up to two members of the practice squad can be elevated to play in Week 11.
In other words, general manager Eric DeCosta and head coach John Harbaugh have no shortage of roster flexibility at the moment, but the question is how much they like their inventory of options on the practice squad.
Sustaining a knee injury expected to sideline him for at least a few weeks, Bonds becomes the fifth Ravens cornerback to be placed on IR this season, joining Tavon Young (knee), Anthony Averett (shoulder), Iman Marshall (knee), and Khalil Dorsey (shoulder). Averett and Dorsey are expected to be able to return in the coming weeks while Young and Marshall sustained season-ending injuries. Players on IR are eligible to return after missing a minimum of three games this season.
The Ravens currently have four cornerbacks on their 53-man roster, a list that includes Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, the recently signed Tramon Williams, and Jimmy Smith, who missed Week 9 with an ankle injury. Veteran cornerback Nate Hairston is currently on the practice squad.
Culkin, Hairston, long snapper Nick Moore, and defensive tackle Aaron Crawford were the four members of the practice squad protected by the Ravens this week.
With the availability of starting defensive linemen Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell in doubt, Crawford would be a logical candidate to be elevated to serve as in-game depth against the run-heavy Titans. If Williams and Campbell don’t play, Baltimore would have just four defensive linemen: Derek Wolfe, Justin Ellis, Justin Madubuike, and Broderick Washington.