I understand that trying to correctly predict the Ravens’ final 53-man roster before their June minicamp is an exercise likely doomed to fail.
The regular season doesn’t begin for another three months, and a lot could happen before then. The front office could sign a free agent. Someone could get hurt. An undrafted rookie could come out of nowhere and make the team.
There’s a good chance some of that will happen. But I’ve made 53-man predictions for years after the final preseason game, just hours before the necessary cuts, and I never get that entirely right. Why not just try now?
Besides, when you start doodling the possibilities, it’s interesting how close you can get to 53 simply by tallying up veteran puzzle pieces, free agent acquisitions and this year’s 12 draft picks. You have to make some tough choices to get to 53 … but not that many.
In any case, here’s my way-too-early shot at what the Ravens’ roster will look like to open the 2018 season:
Quarterbacks (3) – Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III.
Comment: The Ravens haven’t kept three quarterbacks in years because of Flacco’s durability, which renders a No. 3 a needless expense for a team seeking to save cap space. But Jackson’s arrival signals, if anything, a new approach at the position. Flacco remains the starter, but Jackson is his heir and Griffin is experienced and affordable. Good group.
Running backs (4) – Alex Collins, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Patrick Ricard (fullback).
Comment: As Collins became the starter last year, the Ravens carefully monitored his touches to avoid wearing him out. I expect that to continue, which translates to significant work for all three running backs.
Tight ends (4) – Hayden Hurst, Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Maxx Williams.
Comment: The Ravens have gone with three before, but two rookies and a lot of double-tight end sets means they need four. I had Vince Mayle, a special teams contributor, instead of Williams in one of my doodles. It’s close, but Williams looks strong in practice and what if the rookies aren’t quite ready?
Wide receivers (6) – Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead IV, Chris Moore, Jordan Lasley, Jaleel Scott.
Comment: The promised overhaul is complete, with Moore the only returnee. Tim White could push one of this year’s draft picks to the practice squad. My guess is the front office will find a trade partner that allows Breshad Perriman to get a fresh start.
Offensive linemen (8) – Ronnie Stanley, Marsha Yanda, James Hurst, Alex Lewis, Matt Skura, Orlando Brown Jr., Bradley Bozeman, Nico Siragusa.
Comment: The first six are locks. If the Ravens want more experienced depth, they could go with Jermaine Eluemunor, who played in 2017, ahead of Bozeman, a practice squad candidate, or Siragusa, a PUP possibility as he returns from a serious knee injury.
Defensive linemen (6) – Brent Urban, Chris Wormley, Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Willie Henry, Carl Davis.
Comment: This projection leaves out Bronson Kaufusi, a 2016 third-round pick who was injured as a rookie and often inactive in 2017. The Ravens want to hold onto him, but keeping three quarterbacks and four tight ends forces a tough choice. They need an extra cornerback who can play special teams more than an extra defensive lineman.
Outside linebackers (5) – Terrell Suggs, Za’Darius Smith, Matthew Judon, Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams.
Comment: Bowser and Williams need to make progress in their second seasons, but that’s not an issue now.
Inside linebackers (4) – C.J. Mosley, Patrick Onwuasor, Kamalei Correa, Kenny Young.
Comment: The Ravens supposedly have looked for a veteran to start alongside Mosley, but they’ve passed on some solid options, perhaps indicating more faith than believed in those already here. This projection leaves out Albert McClellan, a locker room elder coming back from a major injury.
Cornerbacks (6) – Jimmy Smith, Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, Tavon Young, Anthony Averett, Maurice Canady.
Comment: The Ravens might be deeper in quality players here than at any other position. Averett’s arrival puts Canady and Jaylen Hill on the bubble – Canady makes it, Hill is a PUP candidate.
Safeties (4) – Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Anthony Levine, Chuck Clark.
Comment: Clark makes it ahead of rookie DeShon Elliott, a practice squad candidate.
Specialists (3) – Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox.
Comment: On and on they go.