Ravens release Rashaan Melvin and Jason Babin in defensive shakeup

The Ravens have overhauled their cornerback group.

The Ravens made personnel changes to their beleaguered defense Tuesday, dumping veteran linebacker Jason Babin and cornerback Rashaan Melvin and adding three new cornerbacks to their 53-man roster.

The flurry of roster activity comes two days after the Ravens lost to the Cleveland Browns in overtime, 33-30, a game in which the defense allowed journeyman quarterback Josh McCown to throw for 457 yards.

Tuesday’s moves included announcing the signing of veteran cornerback Shareece Wright — who was released by the San Francisco 49ers, the Ravens’ opponent Sunday — and the promotion to the active roster of practice squad corners Asa Jackson and Charles James. The addition of three cornerbacks restocks a secondary that lost Will Davis to a season-ending knee injury and Lardarius Webb to a hamstring injury on Sunday.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh hinted at personnel moves on Monday, so the defensive shakeup was hardly surprising. The Ravens have allowed 137 points through five games, the most in franchise history during that span.

“We definitely have confidence in the players that we have, in the coaches that we have and in the schemes that we’re running. But you also look for ways to improve and get better,” Harbaugh said Monday.

Melvin, who started four games for the Ravens last year, including two in the postseason, quickly fell down the depth chart after an injury-plagued preseason. He was inactive for four of the Ravens’ five games. The exception was in Week 3, when the Ravens used Melvin as the third cornerback against the Cincinnati Bengals, and he was beaten for a touchdown pass and committed two penalties. He was benched before halftime.

The roster reshuffling leaves the Ravens with a cornerback group that includes starters Jimmy Smith and Webb, Kyle Arrington, rookie Tray Walker, Wright, Jackson and James.

Wright, 28, started 27 games for the San Diego Chargers over the previous two seasons before signing a one-year, $3 million deal with the San Francisco 49ers in March. However, he requested and was granted his release by the 49ers when he was left inactive for the team’s first four games.

Jackson, 25, started six games at cornerback for the Ravens last year before a knee injury ended his season. He was the favorite to start this season as the Ravens’ primary punt returner, but a slew of miscues in the preseason resulted in him being one of the final roster cuts. He was picked up by the New York Giants before being released and landing back on the Ravens’ practice squad.

James, 25, joined the Ravens’ practice squad after he was cut by the Houston Texans. One of the stars of the HBO show “Hard Knocks,” which chronicled Texans training camp, James last played in a regular-season game in 2013, when he appeared in 12 with the Giants.

If Webb can’t play Sunday against the 49ers, the Ravens figure to start Smith and Arrington at cornerback. They’d then choose between Walker, Wright, Jackson and James for their third through fifth cornerback spots.

Babin was terminated less than a month after the Ravens signed him following Terrell Suggs’ season-ending Achilles tendon injury. Babin, a 12-year veteran and two-time Pro Bowl selection, was inactive for his first two games with the Ravens and then played sparingly in the team’s victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Babin struggled mightily last Sunday after he was forced to play extensively when rush linebacker Elvis Dumervil was sidelined with a groin injury. He played 23 defensive snaps and was called for three penalties, and also broke containment on a couple of occasions.

One of those penalties was an illegal hands to the face call, which prolonged a Browns touchdown drive after the Ravens had stopped them on third down. The other two were offsides calls, which drew the ire of Harbaugh, who called the penalties “unfathomable.”

Babin’s release and Dumervil’s groin injury leaves the Ravens with just three healthy outside linebackers: Courtney Upshaw, Za’Darius Smith and Albert McClellan, who started the season as an inside linebacker.

Note: Melvin is eligible to return to the Ravens’ practice squad if he clears waivers. … Jackson and James can help on special teams with wide receiver Darren Waller, who has been one of the Ravens’ best special teams players, sidelined with a concussion. … The Ravens and Jeremy Zuttah reached agreement on a simple restructuring of the center’s contract, converting the $1.6 million that remained on this year’s base salary into a signing bonus. The move created approximately $1.2 million of salary cap space, giving the Ravens a little more maneuverability under the cap. … The Ravens added running back-kick returner Akeem Hunt, wide receiver Daniel Brown and tight end Konrad Reuland to their practice squad. Brown and Reuland were both with the Ravens in the preseason, while Hunt, an undrafted rookie out of Purdue, was with the New York Giants in the preseason.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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