The Ravens, who cut 11 players Friday and put another one on injured reserve, have until 6 p.m. to further reduce their roster from 63 to the required 53. However, head coach John Harbaugh confirmed Friday that Brown and Mellette will likely be on the team that heads to Denver to face the Broncos in the NFL regular-season opener on Thursday.
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Brown, whose senior season at Georgia ended prematurely because of a knee injury, has been the Ravens’ leading wide receiver in preseason with 10 catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Mellette, a seventh-round pick out of Elon, caught nine balls for 140 yards and two scores.
“It’s been good progress,” Harbaugh said. “Marlon and Aaron have played really well, especially for rookies. Those guys, they don’t feel like rookies out there. Marlon had the advantage of playing at a big program in the Southeastern Conference, and I think that shows. Aaron has had the advantage of having caught hundreds of balls in his college career. Both of those things are showing up in camp.”
A day after their final preseason game, the Ravens cut ties with quarterbacks Caleb Hanie and Dayne Crist, running backs Anthony Allen and Delone Carter, tight end Alex Silvestro, offensive linemen Reggie Stephens, Rogers Gaines and Jordan Devey, linebackers Brandon Copeland (Gilman) and Nigel Carr and cornerback Marc Anthony. They also put linebacker D.J. Bryant on season-ending injured reserve after the former Randallstown standout suffered a significant left knee injury in Thursday’s 24-21 loss to the St. Louis Rams.
None of the moves were particularly surprising though Allen developed into a key special teams player and the lead blocker for Pro Bowl returner Jacoby Jones. Anthony, a seventh-round pick out of California, also became the first draft pick that the Ravens cut following his first training camp with the team since tight end Davon Drew (fifth round) and running back Cedric Peerman (sixth round) from the 2009 draft.
The cuts of Hanie and Crist mean the Ravens will go with just two quarterbacks for the fourth straight season and the release of Allen and Carter, who was acquired nine days ago from the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for wide receiver David Reed, certainly is a good sign for Bobby Rainey’s bid to win the No.3 running back job.
What wasn’t addressed in Friday’s transactions was the wide receiver position, arguably the most spirited roster competition of training camp. Eight receivers remain on the 63-man roster and three of them — Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and Brandon Stokley — were considered locks to make the team. Harbaugh certainly made it sound like Brown and Mellete are safe as well. Questions remain, however, about the status of third-year wide receivers LaQuan Williams (Poly, Maryland) and Tandon Doss, and second-year wide-out Deonte Thompson.
Harbaugh admitted that injuries to Thompson, who has been out since the first preseason game with a foot injury, and Williams, who hurt a hamstring on Thursday, has complicated the decision-making process. He also didn’t rule out keeping eight receivers or using their surplus to make a trade.
“Those guys all played well. We’ve got a bunch of guys, and I would like to think that we would hear from somebody, and some of the calls that we make would yield some fruit in the next 24 hours,” Harbaugh said. “We’re not going to just let a good player walk out the door here. We’re just not going to do it. … We’d love for someone who has a need, or who has a strength in an area where we need something, you’d like to think that we could do some business.
“We are heavy in certain areas, and wide receiver is one of them. You look at that position and people considered it a weakness of ours. There is a lot of depth there. Who becomes the stars that everybody talks about in terms of being a strong wide receiver group remains to be seen. But all of those guys are going to be really good players in the National Football League, and just because they aren’t household names now doesn’t mean they won’t be soon.”
The Ravens’ roster decisions are likely to go right up until the 6 p.m. deadline. Not only are they engaged in trade talks with different teams, but they’re closely monitoring the waiver wire, looking to see if there are any upgrades at positions where they are thin at, like at cornerback.
Without any waiver additions or trades, the Ravens will need to drop as many as 11 guys because injured tight end Dennis Pitta (dislocated hip) isn’t eligible to go on injured reserve with a designation to return until Tuesday at 4 p.m. Until then, Pitta, who is hoping for a late-season return, will count against the 53-man roster.
Defensive backs Christian Thompson and Asa Jackson will both be moved to the reserved/suspended list before the season, and rookie center Ryan Jensen (broken foot) could move to injured reserve, leaving the Ravens with seven others moves to make before 6 p.m.
They are unlikely to keep four tight ends, meaning that veteran Billy Bajema and undrafted rookie Matt Furstenburg (Maryland) are probably battling for one spot. Reserve offensive linemen Antoine McClain and J.J. Unga are considered long shots to make the team.
On defense, it’s unclear if there’s room for more than six defensive linemen, leaving DeAngelo Tyson and Cody Larsen in jeopardy. Omar Brown, Anthony Levine and Brynden Trawick are also battling for the fourth safety spot.