Ravens have some difficult decisions as roster deadline looms

Baltimore Ravens running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (43) runs against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of an NFL football preseason game, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015, in Atlanta. Toussant is competing for a roster spot. The deadline for setting 53-man rosters is Sept. 5 at 4 p.m.

The Ravens released five more players Friday, but they're preparing to make the majority of their personnel decisions up against Saturday's deadline for setting the 53-man regular-season roster.

Wide receivers Daniel Brown, who caught a touchdown and blocked a punt in Thursday night's preseason-closing loss to the Atlanta Falcons, and Tom Nelson, offensive tackle Blaine Clausell, inside linebacker Andrew Bose and cornerback Quinton Pointer were all let go. Their releases leave the Ravens with 70 players, meaning that they'll have to make 17 more moves by 4 p.m.


None of the roster moves were surprising, though Brown, a rookie free agent out of James Madison, generated attention with his performance against the Falcons. Brown finished the preseason with four catches for 58 yards and two touchdowns. But Brown and Nelson, a former defensive back who switched positions to try and return to the NFL for the first time since 2011, had too much ground to make up in the competition for the few available receiver spots.

Clausell (Mississippi State) and Bose (Rhode Island) were signed as undrafted free agents, while Pointer joined the team's practice squad last season. Pointer and Brown are prime candidates to join the team's 10-man practice squad, which can start forming Sunday. But the Ravens coaching staff and front office have some business to take care of before that can happen.


"There are a lot of guys that played well," Harbaugh said when asked about the forthcoming roster decisions following Thursday game. "The [defensive] line is going to be some tough calls, the secondary is going to be some tough calls, wide receiver, running back. Those are all positions where we're going to have to make some tough choices."

Some of the decisions appear to be formalities. Quarterback Bryn Renner, fullback Kiero Small (Cardinal Gibbons), tight end Konrad Reuland, undrafted rookie offensive linemen Kaleb Johnson and Nick Easton, outside linebackers Brennen Beyer and Zach Thompson, defensive tackle Micajah Reynolds and rookie free agent safety Nick Perry remain long shots to make the team.

But other calls will be much more difficult as a rash of injuries has left the Ravens vulnerable in certain areas, which in turn, affects decisions at other positions. For example, running back Lorenzo Taliaferro's knee injury will likely force the Ravens to carry a third healthy tailback behind Justin Forsett and rookie Buck Allen.

That's good news for Terrence Magee and Fitzgerald Toussaint, who are competing for that No.3 running back spot, but bad news for players on the roster bubble at other positions.

"I don't want to be anywhere else," said Magee, who outplayed Taliaferro in the preseason, rushing for 93 yards on 26 carries. "This is a business. Whatever happens happens, but I would love and stay here and be a Raven."

In one scenario, the Ravens could release both Magee and Toussaint and look to re-sign one of them or add another running back when a roster spot becomes availability. That could be as early as Sunday, the first date that the Ravens could move defensive end Brent Urban, who is recovering from surgery to repair a torn biceps, to the injured reserve with a designation to return list. To go on that list, Urban has to initially be on the 53-man roster, but he could be moved off it a day later, creating another roster spot.

Beyond running back, the Ravens have to figure out how many wide receivers they'll keep, a decision that will surely be impacted by rookie first-round pick Breshad Perriman's knee injury. Steve Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken, Michael Campanaro (River Hill), Marlon Brown and Perriman have presumably locked up five of the spots. That leaves sixth-round pick Darren Waller and Jeremy Butler potentially fighting for one roster opening.

Along the offensive line, the Ravens are likely set with their top seven of Eugene Monroe, Kelechi Osemele, Jeremy Zuttah, Marshal Yanda, Rick Wagner, James Hurst and John Urschel. Traditionally under Harbaugh, they've kept nine offensive linemen. If they stay true to form, that leaves two spots for Jah Reid, Ryan Jensen and rookie fifth-round pick Robert Myers. The Ravens abhor giving up on draft picks so quickly, but Myers appears to be a project while Reid and Jensen offer versatility. Harbaugh and offensive line coach Juan Castillo will have to weigh present needs against Myers' potential.


The Ravens probably have more questions on the defensive side of the ball. Even with injuries to Urban and projected starting defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, the Ravens still have a bit of a surplus along the defensive line. With Chris Canty, Brandon Williams, Jernigan, Lawrence Guy and rookie Carl Davis in pace, there is probably no more than one roster opening for a group that includes Kapron Lewis-Moore, DeAngelo Tyson and Christo Bilukidi.

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"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," said Lewis-Moore who was sidelined for his first two NFL seasons because of significant injuries. "To be honest with you, going through my injuries and stuff, I'm just happy that the Ravens gave me a chance to come out here and show my stuff."

The other defensive decisions that the Ravens have to make are in the secondary. Will Hill, Kendrick Lewis and Terrence Brooks are entrenched as the top three safeties, but it isn't clear if the Ravens have room for both of Anthony Levine and Brynden Trawick, two special teams standouts.

Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb, Kyle Arrington, Rashaan Melvin are the team's top four corners, and rookie Tray Walker is nearly assured of a spot, given that he's a fourth-round pick. But that leaves Cassius Vaughn and Asa Jackson perhaps competing for one spot.

Jackson's status may be the Ravens' toughest decision of all. He's the Ravens' most explosive return man, but he also fumbled in their last two preseason games, complicating the decision-making process for Harbaugh and Co., who are looking for a replacement for Jacoby Jones.

"It just makes it difficult," Harbaugh said. "You know a guy is capable of making those plays, but that's the challenge of it. You want to be consistent and all these guys know that. That's where the challenge comes in."