In getting down to a 53-man roster Saturday, the Ravens showed a willingness to move on from their draft picks, the importance that they place on special teams and how much they value having defensive depth.
The team's decision-makers also left themselves with some more roster decisions to make before the Ravens' Sept. 13 regular-season opener against the Denver Broncos.
There were few surprises in the team's 17 transactions, which came in comfortably ahead of the league's 4 p.m. deadline. Quarterback Bryn Renner, running backs Terrence Magee and Fitzgerald Toussaint, wide receiver Jeremy Butler and cornerback/kick returner Asa Jackson were among 11 players to be waived.
Offensive linemen Jah Reid and veteran cornerback Cassius Vaughn had their contracts terminated. Defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson and Micajah Reynolds were waived with injuries, and outside linebacker Zach Thompson was placed on injured reserve. The Ravens also traded rookie undrafted rookie center Nick Easton, who was a long shot to make the team, to the San Francisco 49ers for a future undisclosed draft pick.
The series of moves left the Ravens with only two healthy tailbacks (Justin Forsett and Buck Allen), eight offensive linemen, five cornerbacks and no obvious kick returner. The cuts also left them without one of their mid-round draft picks, and without a single member of the team's undrafted free agent class.
Fifth-round draft pick Robert Myers, a guard out of Tennessee State, was let go, their highest draft pick to be cut after his first preseason since fifth-round tight end Davon Drew was waived in 2009. The Ravens have had an undrafted free agent make their Week 1 roster in 11 consecutive seasons, but after waiving Magee, guard Kaleb Johnson, outside linebacker Brennen Beyer and safety Nick Perry, and trading Easton, that streak is now in jeopardy.
"One of the things that we've talked to our guys about is the fact that you put so much work into building up to the first game, the first regular-season game. It seems like a pinnacle, it seems like an end. And you're wondering what kind of a team you have, and you're looking forward to seeing it," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said a couple of hours before the roster moves were made.
"Again, it's just the first game. There's going to be a whole journey after that, too, so this begins it. I told the guys to get some rest for the next couple of days. They've worked really hard and put a really good, solid foundation under themselves as a football team. Now, we're beginning our road for this season, and I think we're going to be a pretty darn good football team."
The Ravens can start formulating their 10-man practice squad Sunday afternoon, and many of the players waived today, including fullback Kiero Small (Cardinal Gibbons), are candidates to re-sign with the team. But Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome have plenty of other decisions that they'll have to make in the days ahead, too.
They are expected to put defensive end Brent Urban, who had surgery to repair a torn biceps last month, on the injured reserve-designated to return list Sunday afternoon. That designation would allow Urban to return to game action after eight weeks, and it opens up a spot on the 53-man roster.
The Ravens could use that extra spot to sign another running back with Lorenzo Taliaferro sidelined with a knee injury, add a kick returner or secure more depth at cornerback.
Jackson was the team's primary return man throughout the preseason. Michael Campanaro (River Hill), Steve Smith Sr. and Lardarius Webb could all be used on punt returns, but all five of the players who returned kicks in the preseason have been waived.
Still, Jackson's release seemed inevitable after he lost fumbles in back-to-back games and was unable to finish two returns that should have been touchdowns. The jettisoning of Jackson, Reid and Tyson left the Ravens with just 13 players from the team that won Super Bowl XLVII in February 2013.
Tyson, a 2012 seventh-round pick, had a productive three seasons with the Ravens, but was slowed by elbow and shoulder injuries this summer. Ultimately, the Ravens decided instead to keep defensive linemen Christo Bilukidi and Kapron Lewis-Moore, the feel-good roster inclusion after he missed his first two pro seasons because of injuries.
"Honestly, the last significant game I played was the national championship in 2013," Lewis-Moore said after the preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday. "Last year, the first preseason game with the 49ers, I only had 20-something snaps. These last couple of weeks, it's been real good to be out there and have some fun, and kind of show what I can do."
As for Reid, the much-maligned 2011 third-round pick who struggled with injuries and inconsistency, he showed some improvement this summer. However, the Ravens opted to keep just eight offensive linemen and the final spot went to Ryan Jensen, who played every position along the line throughout training camp.
As they traditionally do, the Ravens leaned heavily on special teams in finalizing the back end of their roster. Anthony Levine and Brynden Trawick, two core special teamers, made it as the fourth and fifth safeties. Reserve linebackers Zachary Orr and Albert McClellan also stayed as expected given their status on special teams.
Overall, the Ravens kept 23 offensive players and 27 on defense, along with the three specialists: punter Sam Koch, kicker Justin Tucker and long snapper Morgan Cox. The decision to waive Renner leaves Matt Schaub as Joe Flacco's only backup, the sixth straight season in which the Ravens will carry just two quarterbacks into the regular season.
Butler's release means they'll carry six wide receivers, though one of them — first-round pick Breshad Perriman — hasn't practiced since July 30 and is questionable at best for the season opener.