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Late for Work 8/25: Three Positions Where Ravens Have Tough Roster Decisions to Make

082522-LFW
(From left to right) RB Mike Davis, WR Tylan Wallace, & OLB Daelin Hayes

Three Positions Where the Ravens Have Roster Decisions to Make

With Tuesday's deadline for reducing the roster from 80 players to 53 approaching, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec looked at where the Ravens have roster decisions to make heading into Saturday's preseason finale against the Washington Commanders.

Here's a look at three of the positions Zrebiec identified and his analysis:

Running back

The decision: "Mike Davis, Justice Hill, Tyler Badie and Nate McCrary for two or three spots."

Zrebiec's favorites: Davis and Badie

How this could play out: "With [J.K.] Dobbins and Gus Edwards (physically unable to perform list) not taking part in training camp, Davis has mostly worked with the first team. He also started both preseason games. That, plus his experience and pass-catching ability, foreshadow him being a lock. The Ravens abhor cutting draft picks and Badie, who they selected in the sixth round in April, has shown more than enough to stick around. Hill is the big question mark. He had a decent training camp and he's also a solid special teams player. That carries weight with Head Coach John Harbaugh. Still, he's perceived to be firmly on the bubble. McCrary is a logical candidate for the practice squad."

Wide receiver

The decision: "Demarcus Robinson, Tylan Wallace, Binjimen Victor and undrafted rookies Shemar Bridges, Makai Polk and Raleigh Webb for two or three spots."

Zrebiec's favorites: Robinson, Wallace and Bridges

"How this could play out: "Robinson, who the Ravens signed last week, got nearly $900,000 in guaranteed money. It would be out of character for the Ravens to give him that contract and cut him a week later. He's perceived as close to a lock. … It very well could come down to Wallace and Bridges for one spot. Wallace was a fourth-round draft pick last year, but he had a subpar training camp and just returned after missing time with a knee injury. Still, it would be very un-Eric DeCosta-like to cut a second-year fourth-round pick — and Wallace had a solid year on special teams as a rookie. Bridges has had some nice moments, but he's lost a good deal of momentum as the summer has progressed. The Ravens could keep both, but six receivers seem unnecessary for a team that utilizes the position less than anyone in football."

Outside linebacker

The decision: "Steven Means, Daelin Hayes, Jeremiah Moon, Chuck Wiley and perhaps a player to be acquired for one or two spots."

Zrebiec's favorites: Means and Hayes

How this could play out: "Unless team officials are extremely confident that [Tyus] Bowser will be ready for Week 1, and it's hard to imagine they are given he hasn't been on the practice field since January, they figure to make a move here over the next week. This could be a breakout year for Odafe Oweh, and Justin Houston is still a productive player. However, Houston is 33 years old. The team will need to monitor his snaps closely. Baltimore's third and fourth linebackers are going to have roles, and leaning heavily on Means, who has six sacks in seven NFL seasons, and Hayes, who played all of three snaps in a lost rookie season, is troublesome. David Ojabo is weeks away from a return and Bowser might be as well. The Ravens surely recognize they need immediate help."

Would Pursuing a Trade for Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki Make Sense?

The Miami Dolphins reportedly have brought up tight end Mike Gesicki's name in trade talks, and the Ravens have been mentioned as a team that should consider pursuing him. That doesn't seem to make sense considering the Ravens arguably have the best group of tight ends in the league.

Mark Andrews was the most productive tight end in the NFL last season. Rookie Isaiah Likely has been turning heads this preseason. Nick Boyle is working to return as a top blocker. Baltimore also has fourth-round rookie tight end Charlie Kolar, who is recovering from sports hernia surgery.

So, Baltimore seems like one of the last teams that would have interest in another tight end, right? Not so fast.

"To properly evaluate this situation, we need to first strip Gesicki of his position label. He's a 'tight end' in name only," Ebony Bird's Justin Fried wrote. "In reality, he's an offensive weapon that could be deployed in any NFL offense if properly used.

"Don't think of Mike Gesicki, Mark Andrews, and even Isaiah Likely as tight ends. Think of them as receiving options in a Ravens' offense that could use another target for Lamar Jackson. With that mindset, a Gesicki trade is absolutely worth exploring."

Sharp Football Analysis' Warren Sharp also suggested Gesicki would be a good fit in the Ravens' offense.

Gesicki, who was selected by the Dolphins in the second round in 2018 (44 spots before the Ravens took Andrews in the third round), is coming off a season in which he had career highs in receptions (73) and yards (780). He has scored 13 touchdowns over the past three seasons.

So why might Gesicki be on the trade block? For one, he would be playing a different role in new Dolphins Head Coach Mike McDaniel's offense.

"Gesicki played just 99 of his 828 offensive snaps last season as an in-line tight end, a figure that roughly equates to 11 percent," Fried wrote. "On the contrary, more than half (453) of his snaps were in the slot while 252 of them were out wide. The Dolphins didn't use him as a tight end last season. In new Head Coach Mike McDaniel's scheme, Miami wants their tight ends to play an in-line role. Gesicki just isn't a good fit for what McDaniel is looking for.

"The Ravens typically want their tight ends to be able to block as well, but they've shown that they're more than willing to bend the rules for the right talent."

The other issue for Miami is Gesicki's contract status. He's set to make nearly $11 million this season playing on a fully guaranteed franchise tag and would become a free agent after the season. The Ravens have the eight-least eighth-least amount of cap room ($9.462 million, according to OverTheCap.com).

"That's a large chunk of salary for the Ravens to take on this season and they would likely have to do some monetary finagling to make it work," Fried wrote. "On top of that, any Gesicki trade would coincide with an extension. However, that would likely work in the Ravens' favor as it could not only decrease his 2022 cap hit, but it would also likely lower his overall trade value.

"The Ravens wouldn't have to surrender major assets to acquire Gesicki. The Dolphins seem likely to let him walk at the end of the season anyway, further reducing their leverage."

Columnist Says Being Different Makes Them Dangerous

It was noted in Tuesday's Late for Work that a pundit referred to the Ravens as "the most unique team in the league." The San Diego Union-Tribune's Tom Krasovic has expressed a similar sentiment, calling the Ravens "the NFL's most interesting team."

"Capable of beating anyone and seizing a third Super Bowl trophy, yet swimming against industry currents, the tight end-loving, fullback-employing Ravens go into the 2022 season as the NFL's most interesting team," Krasovic wrote. "The Ravens do it their way, and they do it well.

"Pencil the Ravens for 10 wins and no worse than a wild-card spot in a rugged AFC. Different, in their case, means deceptively dangerous."

Krasovic disagreed with those who have been critical of the Ravens' passing offense under Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman.

"Their passing game will frustrate critics such as Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, who recently said if the Ravens fail to develop a 'sophisticated' passing offense, Jackson might be better off going elsewhere," Krasovic wrote. "The ground will shake when play-caller Greg Roman orders a sweep behind 311-pound fullback Patrick Ricard; third tackle Daniel Faalele, a 6-8, 384-pound rookie; two tight ends and All-Pro tackle Ronnie Stanley.

"Look for Jackson to rebound from his first unhealthy season. He has recovered from an ankle injury that sidelined him the final four-plus games. If the 25-year-old's addition of 20 muscular pounds hasn't overly slowed him, he'll once again create passing lanes via his threat as an explosive runner."

Ravens Select USC WR in ESPN's Mock Draft

The Ravens drafted a wide receiver in the first round in 2019 (Marquise Brown) and 2021 (Rashod Bateman), and ESPN's Jordan Reid has them doing it again next year in his mock draft.

Basing his draft order on ESPN's Football Power Index, Reid mocked USC wide receiver Jordan Addison to Baltimore at No. 19 overall.

"Addison would be an obvious target for the Ravens, who have unproven options that lack high-end upside on the perimeter," Reid wrote. "He is great at gaining separation and is a true route technician, able to create throwing lanes for quarterbacks. Now in a Lincoln Riley-led offense that has produced first-round receivers like Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb, Addison could be in store for an even bigger season. And that's saying something since he had 100 catches for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns at Pitt in 2021."

Quick Hits

  • Hall of Famer Ray Lewis is among the athletes who will be featured in "NFL Icons," an Epix documentary series that premieres on Sept. 10.

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