Top Ravens slot cornerback Tavon Young will go on season-ending injured reserve, while rookie quarterback Trace McSorley will start the year on the 53-man roster, the team announced amid a wave of roster moves Saturday afternoon.
The Ravens released or placed on IR 26 players, including several key contributors from last year’s team, as they cleared space for a batch of youngsters. Running back Kenneth Dixon, who ran well in Thursday’s preseason finale but was unlikely to make the roster, will also miss the season on IR. Defensive tackle Willie Henry and cornerback Maurice Canady were released with one season remaining on their rookie contracts.
Coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday that McSorley, who set several preseason records for a Ravens rookie quarterback, had “earned a right” to be in the Ravens’ plans, but was tight-lipped about the team’s intentions. In keeping current backup Robert Griffin III last September, the Ravens had three quarterbacks on their initial 53-man roster for the first time since 2009. Now McSorley could emerge as a potential challenger to Griffin behind Lamar Jackson.
Elsewhere, the Ravens’ interest in protecting and supporting their starting quarterback was clear Saturday. Despite trading Jermaine Eluemunor on Wednesday to the New England Patriots, the Ravens kept nine offensive linemen on their roster, including second-year offensive tackle Greg Senat and guard-center Patrick Mekari. Jaleel Scott, the team’s leading receiver in the preseason, made the roster as the team’s sixth wide receiver.
Defensively, Young’s absence will be most glaring. In early August, less than six months after signing a then-record contract extension for a slot cornerback, he suffered a neck injury in training camp. Team officials had hoped Young could avoid surgery and recover in time to play this year. Instead, he’ll miss his second full season since the Ravens drafted him in 2016.
Henry, who ended last season on IR with a herniated disk, struggled to rush the passer in the preseason. With the release of second-year defensive end Zach Sieler and rookie defensive tackle Gerald Willis, the Ravens have just four full-time defensive linemen. (Two-way player Patrick Ricard thrived mostly against second- and third-string offensive linemen in the preseason.)
In the secondary, the Ravens elected to keep injured rookie cornerback Iman Marshall on their initial roster instead of moving him to season-ending IR. Harbaugh said Tuesday that Marshall will not be healthy enough to play in the season opener, but the roster move suggests that the team thinks he’ll be able to help later this season.
Marshall’s inclusion likely cost either Canady or safety Brynden Trawick a roster spot. But if Marshall is added this week to IR, as expected, the Ravens would open space for another signing. The team could claim a player off the waiver wire, the period for which expires noon Sunday, or sign a vested veteran such as Trawick, now an unrestricted free agent.
In keeping inside linebacker Otaro Alaka, along with Mekari, the Ravens extended their streak of having at least one undrafted rookie on their initial roster to 16 years. Alaka was another on-the-bubble player, but the team ultimately decided against having just three inside linebackers.
On offense, nine players were cut: running back-returner Tyler Ervin and running back De’Lance Turner, fullback Christopher Ezeala, rookie wide receivers Antoine Wesley and Sean Modster, rookie tight ends Cole Herdman and Charles Scarff, guard R.J. Prince and rookie tackle Marcus Applefield.
In addition to Henry, Sieler, Willis, Canady and Trawick, six defenders were released: edge rusher Aaron Adeoye, inside linebackers Donald Payne and E.J. Ejiya, cornerbacks Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Terrell Bonds and safety Bennett Jackson. The Ravens reached injury settlements with Jean-Baptiste and punter Cameron Nizialek, whom they also released.
Inside linebacker Alvin Jones, offensive lineman Randin Crecelius and safety Fish Smithson, an East Baltimore native, joined Young and Dixon on IR.