The Baltimore Ravens release veteran running back Justin Forsett, less than a month after re-signing him. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun video)
Two days after deactivating Justin Forsett and one day after coach John Harbaugh was non-committal about Forsett's future, the Ravens parted ways with the veteran running back.
The organization informed Forsett of his release on Tuesday. Two years ago, Forsett was a highly respected voice in the locker room who helped the franchise overcome the public sting associated with Ray Rice's domestic violence incident in Feb. 2014. Now he is a free agent eligible to sign with any team.
The move seemed inevitable after Forsett, who started the first three games this season but was ineffective, was benched for Terrance West in Sunday's 28-27 loss to the Oakland Raiders at M&T Bank Stadium. It marked Forsett's first healthy scratch since Sept. 7, 2008 -- the first game in his rookie campaign with the Seattle Seahawks.
Forsett did not return a request seeking comment, but posted on Twitter to thank Baltimore for the past three years.
"Baltimore will always have a special place in my heart. Love y'all & thank u for the amazing support over the years," he wrote.
Forsett's spot on the team's 53-man active roster appeared tenuous after Harbaugh was asked on Monday about the tailback's future.
"Justin Forsett is a highly respected, highly valued guy in my eyes and the eyes of all of us," Harbaugh said Monday. "It's a competitive world that we're in. It's a competitive league, a competitive sport, and he knows that as well as anybody. It doesn't diminish him in any way. It enhances him in terms of how you handle it. We'll just have to see. All of those personnel things are all to be determined. You can't say anything about where anything is going to go. You just don't know. None of us have that ability to see into the future. So we'll see how it plays out."
Forsett told the team's website that the decision to part ways was mutual after talking to general manager Ozzie Newsome.
"I felt like my opportunity here was closing," Forsett said. "I'm at a phase in my career where I don't want to sit; I want to play. I have a lot of football left in me."
The release caps an up-and-down two-month period for Forsett, who had seemingly resurrected his career in Baltimore. After bouncing around with the Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, and Jacksonville Jaguars, Forsett signed a one-year deal on April 4, 2014 to join the Ravens.
He played in 16 games that season (including 14 starts) and led the team in rushing yards (1,266), carries (235), and touchdown runs (eight). That performance earned him a three-year extension worth $9 million. At the time, Forsett joked that it was comforting to get a longer commitment from the Ravens, who "put a ring on it," he said.
His 2015 campaign was cut short by a broken arm that sidelined him for the final six games of the season. But he still led the offense in rushing with 641 yards and 151 attempts.
On Sept. 3, the Ravens released the 30-year-old as part of the organization's roster cuts to get down to 53 players. However, the move was more of a procedural one, and the team planned to re-sign him all along, making it official on Sept. 5.
Forsett opened the season as the starter. However, he recorded just 98 rushing yards on 31 carries in the first three games and did not appear to have the quickness to make tacklers miss or the burst to run between the tackles.
West (Northwestern High, Towson University) started in Forsett's place Sunday and rushed for a career-high 113 yards and one touchdown. Javorius "Buck" Allen, a fourth-round pick last year in the 2015 NFL draft, was active Sunday for the first time this season, and carried the ball three times for 13 yards, and caught two passes for 15 yards.
The Ravens are also expecting the return of rookie Kenneth Dixon. The fourth-round pick led the team in rushing in the preseason before suffering a strained medial collateral ligament in his left knee in the third game of the preseason on Aug. 27.
Dixon has made good progress from the injury, practicing fully on Friday after two consecutive days of limited participation. He is expected to make his NFL debut Sunday against the Washington Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium.
Forsett's departure would seem to cement West as the starting running back. But Harbaugh would not make that official Monday.
"I'm not going to say that," he said. "I'm not going to get into all that. I just think that's great to write about, but for us, it's nothing for us to waste any energy on. We're going to put the guys out there that are playing well. Our guys know this: if you're playing hard, you're playing smart, you're playing fundamentally sound, and you're productive, you've got a chance being out there again because everybody's counting on everybody else to get the job done. If one of those things falls down, then you leave the door open for another guy to get their opportunity."
It is not immediately clear what the Ravens will do with his roster spot, but one option is using it to activate tight end Darren Waller from the suspended list. Waller served a four-game ban for violating the league's policy on substance abuse. The team has until Oct. 10 to decide what to do with Waller.
The club also worked out offensive lineman Mike Liedtke and safety Shamiel Gary. Gary played in four games with the Miami Dolphins last season. Liedtke has spent time with the Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets, but has yet to play in a regular-season contest.