Five thoughts on the Ravens' moves that pared their roster to 53 players Saturday:
A few weeks ago, this shaped up as one of the team's most challenging cutdowns in recent memory. Tough decisions loomed across the roster, especially at tight end, wide receiver, linebacker and quarterback. But Jimmy Smith's suspension, the trade of Kamalei Correa and injuries to rookies Hayden Hurst and DeShon Elliott opened up spots and eliminated some of the decision-making, easing the overall pressure. In the end, the Ravens' toughest decisions were whether to keep three quarterbacks (they did) and whether to take a sixth receiver or seventh defensive lineman (they went with a receiver, Janarion Grant, who also returns kicks and punts). It's daunting to go from 90 players to 53 with careers and lives at stake, so I'm not about to downplay what the front office did. But the job could have been tougher than it was.
The big news, of course, is the organization's decision to keep three quarterbacks for the first time since 2009, with Robert Griffin III joining Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson after a stellar performance in training camp and the preseason. I'm all for it. After admittedly operating at a playmaking deficit in recent seasons, the Ravens need all the playmakers they can get, regardless of position. Now they have three at quarterback, all with distinct roles. Flacco is the starter. Jackson is the secret weapon, likely to be deployed in the red zone or in other packages. Griffin is the No. 2, a savvy insurance policy who can step in and give the Ravens their best chance of winning if Flacco gets injured during the season opener next Sunday. And while the decision to keep Griffin is all about what's best for the team now, he's also an interesting long-term prospect – too young and talented to let go.
The Ravens have never parted ways with a first-round pick after just three seasons, so in that sense, Breshad Perriman, who was cut Saturday, is now officially their biggest-ever draft bust. Both sides endeavored to change that unfortunate narrative this summer, the Ravens by picking up a sizable roster bonus to give him a shot, Perriman by staying healthy, practicing well and leading the team in receiving during the preseason. But he was never going to be more than the No. 5 or No. 6 receiver, and the fact that he doesn't play special teams doomed him in the battle for a fringe job. His failure to fight for a 50-50 ball in the end zone in Thursday night's preseason finale might have been the last straw. It's a sad tale. Perriman is an upstanding young man who deserved a happier fate, but this is the right move for both sides. The Ravens need to move on from this situation, and Perriman is better off getting a fresh start in a city where he isn't known for what he hasn't become. I do believe he'll get an opportunity.
The organization didn't want to part ways with Albert McClellan, the heady veteran linebacker who effectively captained the special teams units before suffering a major knee injury last year. McClellan, 32, also was a valuable backup piece on defense with his ability to man any linebacker position. But a veteran is in trouble when his team secures potential replacements who are younger and cheaper, and the Ravens found two at McClellan's position this year, Kenny Young and Chris Board. I'm guessing the toughest part of Head Coach John Harbaugh's Saturday was delivering the bad news to McClellan. The coaches are so comfortable with him that it wouldn't shock me to see the team re-sign him if injuries create an emergency situation down the line. It also wouldn't surprise me to see the organization give him the start he'll need if he decides to go into coaching.
Short takes: Twelve of the Ravens' 53 players are rookies, a high number by any measure … After all the chatter about the talent pool being so deep that they wouldn't take an undrafted free agent rookie for the first time in years, they kept three … Hopefully, the injuries rookie kicker Kaare Vedvik suffered off the field won't keep him from eventually getting a shot with another team, as many expected he would … The Ravens are known for fervently holding onto their draft picks but this cutdown included a pair of relatively recent third-round picks (Carl Davis and Bronson Kaufusi) and a fourth-round pick in just his second season (Nico Siragusa) … As always, I wouldn't label this the "final" roster. Teams never stop making additions and subtractions. If I had to predict a position where GM Ozzie Newsome might make a move soon, it's the offensive line.