Ravens cut Justin Forsett on way to trimming roster to 53

Ravens officials like to say that their roster situation is fluid and can change at any moment. So after the team made a couple of surprising moves Saturday to trim its roster from 75 to 53, the most obvious takeaway was to wonder what comes next.

The Ravens subtracted 20 total players from their roster, the most notable cuts being presumed starting running back Justin Forsett, rookie wide receiver Keenan Reynolds, inside linebacker Arthur Brown and safety Terrence Brooks. The team also put third-year wide receiver Michael Campanaro on injured reserve with a calf strain.


The flurry of activity left the team with only two healthy running backs and only five receivers after it was speculated the Ravens could keep as many as seven, and without an obvious candidate to return kicks and punts. However, all those things could change in the coming days as the team ponders waiver claims and potential trade or free-agent options.

On the surface, the clear headlining transaction was the termination of Forsett's contract just 18 months after he signed a three-year, $9 million extension with the team. Forsett, 30, struggled in the preseason, gaining just 11 yards on seven carries, and not playing in two of the four games.


However, there was no indication that his roster spot was ever in jeopardy. With rookie Kenneth Dixon expected to miss a few games, the team's only healthy backs are former Towson standout Terrance West and second-year pro Buck Allen.

The expectation, though, is that will soon change and the team could bring back Forsett before their Sept. 11 regular-season opener against the Buffalo Bills. Even Forsett appeared to have some fun with the situation on Twitter, writing, "The plot thickens."

With the release of Reynolds (Navy) and with Campanaro (River Hill) going on injured reserve, the Ravens also remain in the market for a return man. Coach John Harbaugh, speaking to reporters early Saturday afternoon, acknowledged the team worked out Devin Hester for a second straight day and the NFL's all-time leader in return touchdowns also took a physical with the team.

Harbaugh wouldn't comment on the results of Hester's physical — the former Chicago Bear and Atlanta Falcon had toe surgery earlier this offseason — and he said the decision on whether to sign him will be up to general manager Ozzie Newsome.

The Ravens could seemingly open up one roster spot for Forsett, another healthy running back or Hester by moving safety Matt Elam to injured reserve. Elam had his knee scoped last month and he's expected to be out for a while.

"It's in Ozzie's hand right now," Harbaugh said of the decision to sign Hester. "He is a proven returner, both as a kick returner and a punt returner. He is at the back end of his career, so you have to factor that in to your decision. That will be up to Ozzie."

The Ravens also terminated the contract of preseason standout Josh Johnson, meaning Ryan Mallett won the backup quarterback job and they'll go with just two signal callers for a seventh straight season. They additionally terminated the contract of veteran guard Vladimir Ducasse, keeping much-maligned reserve offensive tackle James Hurst instead.

Aside from Forsett, the two biggest surprise cuts were wide receiver Jeremy Butler and Brooks. Butler caught 31 balls for 363 yards in eight games last year and he followed that up by leading the team this preseason with 16 catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns. He was clearly the most consistent and productive member of a deep wide receiver competition and now he's on waivers as the Ravens opted to keep just Steve Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman and rookie Chris Moore at the position.

Brooks, a 2014 third-round draft pick, has struggled with injuries and inconsistency throughout his young career. However, he played every snap on defense the past two weeks of the preseason and appeared to be making improvements. His release, along with Elam's knee injury, leaves the Ravens thin at safety behind starters Lardarius Webb and Eric Weddle, and Brooks looking for a new employer.

After his departure, Brooks called the Ravens a "classy organization" on Twitter and said he was honored to be a part of the team.

The cuts of three other draft picks — Reynolds, Brown and defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore — were mostly expected. Reynolds, a rookie sixth-round pick trying to make the transition from a prolific college quarterback to an NFL receiver and return man, struggled all summer. He mishandled punts and kicks in training camp and then finished the preseason with one catch for two yards. The Ravens are hoping he clears waivers and returns to their practice squad.

Brown, a second-round pick in 2013 who was initially billed as a potential successor to Ray Lewis, never caught on to the speed and physicality of the pro game. He played 197 defensive snaps as a rookie in 2013, but none in 2014 and just 10 last year. He also found himself behind former undrafted free agent Zachary Orr and rookie second-round pick Kamalei Correa on the weak-side linebacker depth chart.


A sixth-round pick in 2013 who missed his first two NFL seasons with injuries, Lewis-Moore had a strong summer, but the Ravens just had too much depth along the defensive front. Undrafted rookie Michael Pierce and rookie fourth-round pick Willie Henry made the team instead.

The Ravens' other cuts were running back Stephen Houston, tight end Daniel Brown, offensive linemen Blaine Clausell and Matt Skura, outside linebackers Brennen Beyer and Victor Ochi, inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor and defensive back Julian Wilson.

They placed wide receiver Chris Matthews and offensive lineman De'Ondre Wesley on injured reserve and waived cornerback Carrington Byndom with an injured designation. The 20 moves got them down to 55 players, and the other two necessary roster spots will open when tight ends Darren Waller and Nick Boyle transfer to the reserve/suspended list.

Many of the above-mentioned players could return to the organization on the practice squad as early as Sunday afternoon.

"We like to fill the practice squad out mostly, if not all, with guys who have been here, because we like our players," Harbaugh said. "That's where we're at right now."



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