Inside linebacker Chris Board, wide receiver Janarion Grant, and cornerback Darious Williams made the 53-man roster Saturday, continuing the Ravens’ rich history of finding talented undrafted free agents.
The franchise has kept at least one undrafted free agent for 15 straight years, including seven other players on this year’s roster: long snapper Morgan Cox (2010), kicker Justin Tucker (2012), offensive lineman James Hurst (2014), linebacker Patrick Onwuasor (2016), defensive tackle Michael Pierce (2016), center Matt Skura (2016), and fullback Patrick Ricard (2017).
Board’s path to this year’s rostercame on special teams, where he beat out longtime special teams ace Albert McClellan for a spot. However, Board also did a solid job during the preseason and training camp at inside linebacker, where he will move onto the depth chart behind C. J. Mosley, Onwuasor, and Kenny Young.
Board, who was a three-time national champion (FCS) at North Dakota State, had 30 tackles during the preseason and reacted quickly as plays developed. He needs to improve in pass coverage, but the Ravens believe Board is a promising prospect at linebacker. He led Baltimore in tackles (10) in Thursday’s preseason finale.
“I think I put my best foot forward tonight and I think I showed the coaches what I could do for this defense,” Board said following Thursday night’s preseason game against the Redskins. “I know the competition is fierce at this position, but I think I did the best that I could.”
Grant was in jeopardy of being released, but the team’s need for a returner helped his case. He was one of the best returners in college football at Rutgers, and his college tape caught the eye of Ravens Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg.
Grant averaged 32.5 yards per kickoff return and 16 yards per punt return in college. He also showed enough at returner and wide receiver in training camp to become one of six wide receivers on the roster, joining Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead IV, Chris Moore and Jordan Lasley. The Ravens hope earning a roster spot will help Grant relax and regain the form he showed in college.
Williams had a long road to make the roster after not being invited to the NFL combine. But his pro day at the University of Alabama-Birmingham was impressive, and the season-ending arm injury to cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste in Thursday night’s preseason finale likely opened the door for Williams to make the roster.
The Ravens want to ensure they have enough cornerback depth with Jimmy Smith suspended for the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s conduct policy. Smith’s absence will leave Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, Tavon Young, Maurice Canady, Anthony Averett, and Williams to open the season at cornerback, joined by Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Chuck Clark, and Anthony Levine at safety.