The Ravens’ decision to decline the fifth-year 2019 option on wide receiver Breshad Perriman’s contract, a move that became official Thursday, was considered a formality. The bigger question is whether the disappointing 2015 first-round draft pick will be on the Ravens’ roster in late July or in early September.
With the additions of free-agent receivers Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead IV, and the drafting of receivers Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley, Perriman suddenly has an uphill battle to make the regular-season roster.
Team officials have talked about how this is a make-or-break summer for Perriman, so they at least figure to give him an opportunity through the various offseason minicamps to show that he’s made improvements and can be trusted. However, cutting him now would save approximately $1.5 million in salary cap space. Perriman also has a $650,000 roster bonus that is due on the third day of training camp, according to ESPN. If the Ravens believe he has little chance to make the team, they could cut him rather than pay the roster bonus.
As of now though, Perriman, one of general manager Ozzie Newsome’s biggest draft misses, is scheduled to be a free agent after the 2018 season. Declining his option, which would have been for just over $9 million, was a no-brainer after he caught just 43 passes for 576 yards and three touchdown receptions over his first three seasons. He’s not played in 21 games in his career, missing all of the 2015 season.
Perriman, the 26th overall pick in 2015, was supposed to break the trend of the Ravens’ early-round receiver disappointments. However, his Ravens’ tenure appeared doomed from the start. The wide receiver hurt his right knee in his first full-squad practice of training camp as a rookie. What Ravens coach John Harbaugh initially said was a day-to-day injury wound up keeping Perriman out for the entire season. Harbaugh described Perriman as having “probably one of the all-time, slowest-healing sprained PCLs ever.”
Things were looking up the following summer before he sustained a partially torn ACL during organized team activities. Perriman missed most of the preseason, but he returned in time for the 2016 regular-season opener. He knocked off the rust and made some progress that season, playing in all 16 games and finishing with 33 catches for 499 yards and three touchdown receptions.
Perriman appeared intent on building off that as he probably made more plays than any other Ravens receiver in the various offseason minicamps. However, Perriman strained his hamstring and was out for much of training camp for a third straight year. When he returned to the field, he didn’t look the same as he did earlier in the summer.
He struggled to get separation on cornerbacks and even when he was targeted, he had a hard time holding on to the ball. Two potential big plays bounced off Perriman’s hands and led to interceptions and eventual touchdowns in close Ravens losses to the Chicago Bears and Tennessee Titans. Perriman was held to one catch or fewer in seven of the Ravens’ first eight games this past season.
Rock bottom came when Perriman was a healthy scratch in four of the final seven games for a team that badly needed a downfield threat.
The Ravens suddenly have a logjam at receiver. Barring injuries, Crabtree, Brown and Snead are considered locks to make the team. Chris Moore is ahead of Perriman on the depth chart as well and he’s also the team’s primary kick returner and a good special teams player. The Ravens hate cutting mid-round draft picks in their first year, so Scott and Lasley are in good position to make the regular-season roster.
Perriman is technically competing with Moore, Scott, Lasley, DeVier Posey, Tim White and Quincy Adeboyejo for probably one or two spots.
Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston contributed to this article.