Few teams have Baltimore’s tradition of finding and developing undrafted free agents.
The Ravens have gone 14-straight seasons with at least one undrafted rookie making the 53-man roster, the second-longest active streak in the NFL.
The trend continued Saturday, but the Ravens even stepped it up a notch.
Not one, not two, but three undrafted rookies made the active squad: cornerback Jaylen Hill, defensive lineman/fullback Patrick Ricard and linebacker Bam Bradley.
Bradley made the team after finishing the preseason with quite the statement. He was all over the field in the preseason finale in New Orleans, and finished with eight tackles on the night. Bradley will help make up for the loss of linebacker and special-teams leader Albert McClellan, who suffered a season-ending knee injury.
“He’s been doing it on defense and he’s really been doing it on special teams,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said of Bradley. “He’s had some really good special-teams moments.”
Keeping Bradley continues the tradition of finding undrafted linebackers who are good enough to play in the NFL. It’s a long history that includes players like Bart Scott, Jameel McClain, Dannell Ellerbe, Albert McClellan, Zachary Orr and Patrick Onwuasor.
The Ravens use that tradition as a bargaining chip when trying to bring undrafted players to Baltimore each spring, and Bradley was well aware of that linebacker history when he signed with the Ravens.
“A couple of those guys who have done it are actually around with Albert and Jameel McClain,” Bradley said. “They just talked to me about how they played in the preseason and how they went about it every day. They helped me along to know what an undrafted free agent would need to do to make the team. I feel like I was in the perfect situation.”
Bradley may have flown under the radar until his big game against New Orleans, but Hill and Ricard have been much discussed throughout the preseason.
Ricard, who played college ball at Maine, was one of the surprises of training camp for his ability as a two-way player. The Ravens gave him a shot at fullback, and he played well enough that the team decided not to carry a traditional fullback on the active roster. He also blocked a field goal against the Saints and earned a spot despite the defensive line group being perhaps the deepest on the team.
“Everyone is great here. There is so much depth,” Ricard said Thursday. “It’s good to finish camp strong, now it’s up to the coaches to decide what’s going to happen with me here. I am just proud of what I did.”
Hill also impressed throughout the preseason. He took advantage of increased reps after a handful of injuries in the secondary, and then made play after play in practice. He carried that into the games where he came up with a pair of interceptions in the preseason.
The next step for all three players is to show they are deserving of dressing on gamedays. Only 46 players are active every Sunday, and they will be out to prove they deserve snaps in the regular season.