Robert Griffin III Stays in Baltimore But Future Remains Unclear
One of the most influential decisions the Ravens front office had to make when constructing the team's 53-man roster was if they should to keep quarterback Robert Griffin III.
It wasn't just a decision that was getting a lot of attention in Baltimore. Around the league, many analysts viewed the decision on whether to keep the former Heisman Trophy winner as one of the most fascinating roster dilemmas facing a team, including CBSSports’ Joel Corry, who listed Griffin first when he wrote about the NFL's most notable players on the bubble.
Ultimately, when the Ravens turned in their 53-man roster, Griffin's name was on it.
It's a move that's been favorably received by the media. Griffin looked good during the preseason, completing 27 of 41 passes for 243 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, while also running for 52 yards on 11 carries. The last time the Ravens named three quarterbacks to their original 53-man roster was 2009 – there's no way Griffin would still be in Baltimore if he hadn't earned it.
Though rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson finished his preseason in scintillating form by posting a 103.2 passer rating over his final two games, deciding to keep Griffin will provide an excellent contingency plan should starting quarterback Joe Flacco get injured.
"If Flacco was injured again, does anyone know which Jackson the Ravens would get?" ESPN asked. "Would it be the one who put up dazzling numbers at the end of the preseason, or would it be the quarterback who couldn't complete more than half of his passes in each of the first three games? With so much riding on this season, Baltimore simply can't gamble on the most important position in the game."
Griffin being on the roster also gives the Ravens more room to explore using Jackson as an x-factor on offense in 2018.
"The Ravens have experimented with offensive sets featuring two quarterbacks on the field at the same time, and Griffin's presence gives the Ravens more flexibility to do that while giving them further insurance in case of injury to Flacco," PressBox’s Bo Smolka wrote.
The knock on including Griffin has been giving a roster spot to a player who may never play a down during the regular season. There's even a chance Griffin won't regularly make the weekly 46-man gameday roster.
"The Ravens decided to keep three quarterbacks on their roster, supply and demand suggest that they'll dress only two against the Bills," The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer wrote. "Will it be the more dynamic Jackson or the more game-ready Griffin?"
Even though Griffin made the team, there are some in the media that don't think it's a guarantee that he'll stay in Baltimore for the entirety of 2018. As CBSSports’ Jared Dubin pointed out, "It's possible the Ravens could look to trade Griffin to a QB-needy team at some point."
Dubin's argument is that Griffin staying in Baltimore ultimately hinges on the development of Jackson. Should Jackson make major progress and establish that he'd be an excellent backup to Flacco, then Griffin's role would diminish.
Adding to that speculation is the report from Mile High Sports Radio’s Benjamin Allbright that the Ravens fielded calls about Griffin from nine teams before the 53-man roster deadline.
"Maybe Griffin's name continues to come up in further trade talks," NFL Network's Tom Pelissero said.
Pelissero later clarified his comments.
Pelissero's clarifications seem to perfectly sum up Griffin's current standing in Baltimore.
The Ravens don't want to move Griffin, and if he were to be traded, it's not expected to happen soon. An NFL season is very difficult to predict, so while Griffin is in an excellent position with the Ravens right now, that could change due to a variety of currently unforeseen factors.
For now, the Ravens can take solace in knowing that they're extremely deep at the most important position in football.
"The best-case scenario for the Ravens is Flacco plays the entire season and Griffin doesn't see the field," ESPN wrote. "The worst situation would've been if Flacco got hurt early in the season and the Ravens had cut Griffin. In this instance, it's better for the Ravens to be second-guessed for keeping Griffin and not using him than not having him at all."
53-Man Roster Focuses on Youth
While the most-written about narrative of the Ravens roster cuts was the decision to keep a 28-year-old backup quarterback, The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec was more focused on the youth movement the Ravens are undergoing.
"The biggest takeaway from the Ravens' myriad moves was the organization's ongoing efforts to get younger after maintaining one of the league's oldest rosters in recent years," Zrebiec wrote. "The Ravens kept 12 rookies on their active roster, including three undrafted free agents, and have three more first-year players getting what amounts to a redshirt year on injured reserve."
Thirty-one of the 53 players on the Ravens' roster have less than three years of experience in the NFL, and in many of the perceived bubble decisions, Baltimore's front office opted to pick younger players rather than older.
No situation better epitomized this than inside linebacker Albert McClellan's. A steady contributor on special teams since 2011 who also started at times on defense, McClellan was trusted by the entire Ravens' coaching staff. However, he was also coming off a serious knee injury and is 32 years old. McClellan was ultimately cut, a decision that Smolka believed "had to be an agonizing decision in the building."
Instead, the Ravens kept inside linebacker Chris Board, who like McClellan, went undrafted. Board had a standout preseason, leading the NFL with 30 tackles, though he was aided by playing an additional fifth contest in the Hall of Fame game. According to The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker, Baltimore's plan with Board is "to develop him on the same track McClellan once followed."
It isn't an entire overhaul though, as the Ravens have eight players on their roster over the age of 30. Despite this, the team's age did decrease from 26.4 last season to 26, according to The Philly Voice’s Jimmy Kempski. The Ravens have the 18th oldest roster in the NFL, which is a seven-spot move from 2017 when they were the 25th oldest team.
Zrebiec also noted that the transition may have come a year earlier than some pundits expected because of the changes that are going to happen in the front office, with General Manager Ozzie Newsome stepping down and Eric DeCosta taking over after this season.
"This isn't a teardown situation as the team's veteran core remains intact," Zrebiec wrote. "It's more rebuilding on the fly, consistently incorporating younger players while trying to maintain a playoff-caliber team. That was evident with several of the roster moves on Saturday."
Breshad Perriman's Release Ends Disappointing Tenure in Baltimore
To many members of the media, the most notable player released from the Ravens on Saturday was wide receiver Breshad Perriman.
A lot was expected of Perriman when the Ravens used the No. 26 pick on him in 2015, but he simply didn't meet those hopes. He spent his first year in Baltimore on injured reserve after hurting his knee, then caught just 43 passes for 576 yards and three touchdowns over the next two seasons.
Perriman had the best preseason of his career in 2018, remaining healthy throughout and leading the Ravens in receiving yards during games, though Shaffer noted, "Most of it came against second- and third- stringers."
The decision was not surprising considering the competition that had been taking place at wide receiver throughout the summer.
There were two wide receiver spots up for grabs. Usually, the players that get those spots are ones that can contribute on special teams. Rookie wide receivers Jordan Lasley and Janarion Grant, who Baltimore kept, are expected to do that for the team in 2018.
It should also be noted that Perriman was left off the roster for how he played on the field, not the character he displayed during his time with the Ravens. In fact, many media members commended him for his consummate professionalism throughout his time in Baltimore.
Usually what happens when a former first-round draft pick is released is that other teams become interested in seeing if he could turn it around for them. Perriman is reportedly already in that process, and has his first tryout today with the New York Jets.
Ravens Value Familiarity When Filling Out Practice Squad
After naming its 53-man roster on Saturday, the Ravens front office got to work naming its 11-man practice squad. So far, eight players have been added to the practice squad, all of which spent the summer in Baltimore.
"The Ravens valued familiarity in re-signing eight players who were waived Saturday to their practice squad a day later," WNST’s Luke Jones wrote.
One player who Baltimore brought back is guard Nico Siragusa. A 2017 fourth-round selection that suffered a major knee injury during training camp of his rookie season, Siragusa was an excellent player to bring back, according to Russell Street Report’s Ken McKusick.
"The San Diego State product was slow to recover this offseason and is still trying to regain his pre-injury form, but he will now be able to continue his development while remaining with the organization," Jones wrote.
Tight end Darren Waller was also named to the practice squad. McKusick was a little warier of the Waller selection because of his suspension history, though Jones liked the decision to keep him as he gets reacclimated to playing football.
"The 25-year-old was in contention for a roster spot at the end of the preseason despite being reinstated by the league only last month," Jones wrote.
The one player the Ravens have been linked to that wasn't previously in their organization even offers some familiarity. Though the organization has not confirmed it officially, the Ravens have reportedly signed former New England Patriots cornerback and return specialist Cyrus Jones to their practice squad, according to NFL Insider Adam Caplan.
As RavensWire’s Nathan Beaucage pointed out, "The marriage between Jones and his new team seems to be a natural one." Jones is a Baltimore native and was a star in high school for Gilman School. He later went on to play collegiately at Alabama, a school Newsome frequently drafts from. The Ravens have five Alabama alums on their 53-man roster.
Jones did not blossom into the player the Patriots thought he would become when they drafted him in the second round in 2016. He struggled his rookie season before sitting out the entire 2017 regular season after tearing his ACL.
Still, Jones is talented, and his ability to play cornerback, as well as return punts and kicks, had to be attractive to the Ravens.
- Ravens President Dick Cass spoke with Baltimore Business Journal about running the business side of the organization.
- The Baltimore Business Journal also focused on a new ad campaign M&T Bank is launching in advance of the 2018 regular season, which focuses on fan enjoyment at Ravens games. M&T Bank will also be giving away some cool prizes throughout the season as well, such as a "Grill and Chill" — an all-in-one mini-cooler and grill.
- Tight end Mark Andrews and defensive lineman Patrick Ricard led the Ravens' offense and defense, respectively, in Pro Football Focus' rankings from Thursday night's victory against the Redskins.
- ESPN’s fantasy football guru Matthew Berry is foreseeing a big season for wide receiver John Brown, listing him among his group of trends he's seen in preseason that he thinks will continue. "John Brown is gonna be a real thing this year. Actually, Baltimore's entire offense will be."
- According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Buffalo Bills are expected to start quarterback Nathan Peterman this Sunday, not rookie Josh Allen.
- Today we're launching our Week of Winning contest, presented by Dunkin Donuts, to help kick off the 2018 season. Today's code word is "FLACCO," and the prize is an autographed authentic Flacco jersey, along with free Dunkin Donuts coffee for a year. To enter the contest, visit: https://www.baltimoreravens.com/fans/contests/week-of-winning/