Five thoughts on Saturday's cuts:
An unusual combination of factors brought to an end the Ravens' remarkable 16-year streak of keeping at least one undrafted rookie free agent coming out of training camp. For starters, fewer roster spots than usual were up for grabs due to the Ravens owning one of the NFL's strongest and deepest rosters. They've also drafted 18 players in the past two years and a whopping 30 since 2018, and though they've parted with a few, they tend to give their picks more rope – another factor leading to fewer available jobs. (Only one player among Saturday's 23 cuts, receiver Jaleel Scott, was a former Baltimore draft pick.) The final factor working against the streak was the coronavirus pandemic, which wiped out spring practices and the preseason. That meant fewer opportunities for undrafted players to flash on the field and possibly turn heads. The pandemic also seemingly gave an edge to fringe players who were already in the organization, i.e., guys on the practice squad or the bottom of the depth chart, who didn't have nearly as much to learn in a truncated offseason.
The reliance on more experienced fringe players may well have made winners out of quarterback Trace McSorley, inside linebacker Otaro Alaka and guard Ben Powers, all of whom earned jobs ahead of undrafted rookies. (Powers also beat out veteran Parker Ehringer.) Nonetheless, we can start a pool on when an undrafted rookie suits up for the Ravens in the 2020 regular season, because it almost surely will happen, perhaps soon, depending on injuries and other personnel moves that might be forthcoming. The Ravens' 16-man practice squad, expanded from 10 a year ago due to the pandemic, likely will be dominated by the young players who were cut Saturday, and with the rules for promoting players from the practice squad far more permissive in 2020, also due to the pandemic, it might be a weekly occurrence that practice squad players dress on Sundays. A different world? For sure. But so it goes in 2020.
When do you know your roster is truly stacked? When one of the main talking points from the final cuts is the No. 3 tight end job. It's hardly a marquee position, but the Ravens are good to go almost everywhere else. And the No. 3 tight end actually is a pretty big deal for them because Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman is fond of sets with multiple tight ends, and also, quarterback Lamar Jackson loves throwing to them. Thus, it was a surprise that the team cut every perceived candidate for the job, including veteran Jerell Adams. So, what now? There has been talk of fullback Patrick Ricard taking on some of the load, which could happen, but my hunch is the front office will look to add a full-time tight end who can absorb some of the heavy load that Nick Boyle and Mark Andrews figure to carry. Head Coach John Harbaugh confirmed the team is working out Crockett Gillmore, who was with the Ravens from 2014-16 before his career fizzled due to injuries. We'll see what happens there, but either way, I take that as a sign the Ravens are looking to add a blocking tight end.
It was no surprise the team kept veteran Chris Moore as the No. 6 wide receiver, as Moore is a special teams standout who was re-signed in the offseason. But he hasn't been on the field since July because of an injured finger, which prompted speculation that the team might consider cutting him. The idea, only rumored, was to use his spot to keep someone else and then quickly re-sign Moore to the practice squad, provided he cleared waivers. He could then be promoted when he's ready to play. But either he's already ready or the front office elected not to risk losing him on waivers, as Moore made the final 53 while another veteran special teams standout, safety Jordan Richards, was let go. Moore will lead a revamped special-teams unit along with Chris Board and Anthony Levine Sr..
Short takes: The final 53 is heavy on linemen, no pun intended, with nine O-linemen and seven D-linemen combining to comprise 30 percent of the roster … To be clear, the team didn't go with more experienced players on every roster call, as it kept rookie safety Geno Stone ahead of Richards … Also, the Ravens brought in veteran Kenjon Barner to compete with rookie James Proche II for the punt and kickoff return jobs, and Proche won out. He'll likely return punts, at least; the kickoff return job isn't as a clear cut, as Justice Hill and Moore also could handle that … Ehringer was being considered for the backup tackle job, but there are numerous possibilities for that role on the final 53, including veteran D.J. Fluker and rookie Tyre Phillips, the top candidates to start at right guard.
Here are all the players that made Baltimore's initial 2020 squad at the end of training camp.