Trying To Make Sense Of Justin Forsett Situation
The Ravens sent Baltimore city into shock Saturday when they announced the release of veteran running back and locker room leader Justin Forsett.
The questions came pouring in (WNST's Luke Jones literally asked 20).
How could they do this just a few weeks after Head Coach John Harbaugh praised Forsett for playing as well as he did during his 2014 Pro Bowl season?
How could they do this after giving Forsett starter treatment all summer, including giving him veteran days off and holding him out of the first and last preseason games?
How could they head into the season-opener with just two healthy backs (Terrance West and Buck Allen)?
Why didn't *anyone *in the organization wish him well upon his release? There was no statement from team officials when they've prepared such statements for past impactful veterans they've cut. Then there was absolutely no love from his teammates on social media, yet they said goodbye to Terrence Brooks and welcomed Devin Hester.
Why weren't there any reports about other teams trying to sign a player who put up 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns in 2014?
And what was up with Forsett's cryptic tweet immediately after the announcement of his release? Forsett is the type of guy to say thank you to the organization, city and fans upon his departure.
So here's the deal.
It looks like Forsett is on his way back, according to multiple reports, including The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec, ESPN's Adam Schefter and NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. He's expected to re-sign anywhere between now and Tuesday morning's practice when the players return from the Labor Day break.
"Forsett's release appears to be a calculated gamble by the Ravens," wrote Zrebiec. "The most important news is that the veteran running back should be an important part of their offense Sunday against the Bills."
The reason for all the charades, at least in part, apparently has to do with Matt Elam, Carl Davis and the league's new rule dictating how teams activate one player from injured reserve during the season.
In order for injured players to be eligible for return, the Ravens had to wait until at least 4 p.m. Sunday to place them on injured reserve, per Zrebiec. The Ravens don't know for certain that either Elam or Davis will be the one player they choose to activate, but they wanted that option for both. So, they had to wait to place them on IR. Once the two are officially moved, their spots on the 53-man roster are expected to be filled by Forsett and newly-signed Devin Hester.
It's all starting to make sense, but why was Forsett the person chosen to be cut? It's a gamble with such a prominent player on offense.
Rapoport explains in the video below that the Ravens and Forsett, indeed, are "still working some things out contractually." Forsett was entering the second year of a three-year, $9 million deal, which is a "substantial amount" for a 30 year old, even if he is a starter.
"The Ravens could bring him back at a little bit of a different number," Rapoport said. He added that any veteran contract signed after Week 1 is no longer guaranteed.
Devin Hester And Ravens Make 'Perfect Fit'
Considering the situation the Ravens found themselves in a little more than a week out from the season opener, they are fortunate somebody of Devin Hester's caliber was available.
EPSN's Jamison Hensley called it a "perfect fit."
"Hester is perhaps the best returner in NFL history and a candidate for the Hall of Fame," he wrote. "The Ravens pride themselves on special teams, especially with Harbaugh's background, and traditionally boast the top return units in the league."
It's fair to question how much gas Hester has left in the tank at 33 years old and coming off offseason toe surgery. Nobody can expect him to continue his historic pace from his days with the Chicago Bears. But, as Hensley pointed out, in Hester's last healthy season (2014), he led the NFL in punt returns with a 13.3-yard average among returners with at least 15 attempts.
"Baltimore tried to find someone in-house this summer with [Michael] Campanaro and Keenan Reynolds," wrote Hensley. "It just didn't work out. Campanaro couldn't stay healthy, and Reynolds couldn't consistently field kicks."
Jeremy Butler Joins Tampa Bay Practice Squad, Victor Ochi Joins Jets Practice Squad
It didn't match the outrage of Forsett's release, but Ravens fans also took to social media to voice displeasure over the release of wide receiver Jeremy Butler and undrafted rookie Victor Ochi.
I admit that I thought Butler did enough to make the 53-man roster after leading Ravens receivers in the preseason with 16 catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, he wasn't realistically going to get snaps as the fifth or sixth receiver behind Steve Smith Sr., Breshad Perriman, Mike Wallace, Kamar Aiken and even rookie Chris Moore. And, Butler didn't contribute enough on special teams.
As for Ochi, while he showed promise, I always thought there were too many pass rushers in front of him to make the team.
A couple of notes on releasing these two …
First, it's clear the Ravens didn't undervalue them. If they had, Butler and Ochi would have been claimed off waivers and added to somebody's 53-man roster. Instead, they both signed practice squad deals elsewhere. Given how low on the depth chart they were, you can certainly understand why they chose to start fresh with new opportunities in other cities. Why not show another team what you're capable of?
The second thing to remember is that if the Ravens get into injury trouble at either position, they can sign any player on any practice squad to their full roster.
Why Did Baltimore Choose Kendrick Lewis Over Terrence Brooks? Why Keeping James Hurst Make Sense
Saturday marked the first time in nine years the Ravens cut a third-round pick after two seasons, per Hensley. The last time that happened was with returner Yamon Figurs in 2007.
When Elam injured his knee, the prevailing thought was that Brooks was a lock to make the roster at a thin position. Instead, the Ravens chose to cut Brooks and keep Kendrick Lewis, who has been injured for much of the preseason.
Zrebiec says the reason behind cutting Brooks had more to do with the mental part of his game.
"[T]he Ravens certainly think Lewis is a lot better than their fans do," he wrote. "It basically came down to the fact that team officials believe Lewis is a smarter player, more instinctive and more reliable. There's no question Brooks is faster, more athletic and hits harder. Brooks is a physical specimen.
"However, the team didn't feel like the game slowed down enough for Brooks — both on defense and special teams — to trust him in a significant role. … Ultimately, the Ravens chose the known with Lewis over the unknown with Brooks."
Brooks was claimed off waivers by the Philadelphia Eagles where he will resume his career.
Meanwhile, offensive tackle James Hurst was a surprise to make the team for many after he was pushed back into Joe Flacco's knee last season and was benched in favor of Kelechi Osemele at left tackle.
But Zrebiec says he was kept for three reasons: 1) Team officials think Hurst is better than fans do, 2) tackle De'Ondre Wesley was put on IR and 3) the Ravens are thin at the position.
"The team is giving serious consideration to starting rookie Alex Lewis at left guard. If Lewis plays left guard, the team's top two reserve offensive linemen – John Urschel and Ryan Jensen – are both interior guys. That would leave the Ravens really thin at offensive tackle options on game days," Zrebiec wrote.
"Sure, if Ronnie Stanley or Rick Wagner goes down, Marshal Yanda could shift over to right tackle, or Lewis could move to left tackle. But then you'd be affecting multiple positions instead of just one. Hurst was their best healthy and internal option available for a reserve tackle. Having said all that, I still think there's a good chance the Ravens pick up a tackle on waivers."
Elvis Dumervil Is Biggest Injury Question Heading Into Week 1
Even though he was activated from the physically unable to perform list, starting outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil's injury status is up in the air. He was activated from the PUP on Aug. 22 and practiced for a week, but now hasn't practiced since Aug. 29, per Hensley.
"It's all in the doctors' hands and Elvis' hands," Harbaugh said after Saturday's practice, adding that when Dumervil is cleared to fully practice, he'll be out there.
It leaves a major question mark over Dumervil.
"The biggest injury concern for the Baltimore Ravens heading into Week 1 is the availability of linebacker Elvis Dumervil," wrote Hensley.