Baltimore Ravens

Ravens’ roster cuts include a few surprises, but their moves are far from over

The Ravens’ season-opening 53-man roster didn’t include a potential starter at outside linebacker. Or a special teams linchpin. Or a defensive tackle who played more snaps than Brandon Williams last season. Or the team’s best Nick Boyle impersonator.

A rash of injuries and infusion of young talent complicated the Ravens’ team-building plans ahead of Tuesday’s cut-down deadline. Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, defensive back/linebacker Anthony Levine Sr., defensive tackle Justin Ellis and tight end Eric Tomlinson, respectively, were among those let go. But general manager Eric DeCosta and coach John Harbaugh might not be without some key contributors for long.


With more maneuvering Wednesday, the Ravens are expected to make space on their 53-man roster for players who didn’t make the cut Tuesday. That includes vested veterans like McPhee and Levine, who aren’t subject to waivers and, as free agents, can sign with any team.

Because of who the Ravens kept, DeCosta has some flexibility. Not only is first-round pick Rashod Bateman (groin) a candidate for injured reserve, which would sideline him until at least Week 4, but so are fellow wide receiver Miles Boykin (hamstring) and running back Justice Hill (ankle), both of whom entered the last week of train camp on the roster bubble. Boyle and cornerback Jimmy Smith (ankle) are also banged up. For every player the Ravens move to IR, another spot on the 53-man roster opens up.


With quarterback Lamar Jackson’s megadeal looming, the Ravens on Tuesday continued a concerted effort to either keep cheap, young players, or trade them away for more draft capital. On offense, quarterback Tyler Huntley, running backs Ty’Son Williams and Hill, wide receivers James Proche II and Boykin, tight end Josh Oliver and offensive lineman Trystan Colon were all safe. Lineman Ben Bredeson, meanwhile, a fourth-round pick in 2020 who struggled in camp, was packaged with a fifth-round pick in 2022 and a seventh-round pick in 2023 in a trade Thursday for the New York Giants’ fourth-round pick in 2022.

On defense, the Ravens kept outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson, inside linebacker Kristian Welch, cornerback Chris Westry, and safeties Geno Stone and Ar’Darius Washington. (Washington is the first undrafted rookie on the team’s season-opening roster since the Ravens’ 16-year streak of having at least one make the cut ended last year.) The team on Thursday traded rookie cornerback Shaun Wade, a fifth-round pick, to the New England Patriots in return for a 2022 seventh-round pick and a 2023 fifth-round pick.

In all, the Ravens made 21 roster moves Tuesday. Among the other notable players released were quarterback Trace McSorley, whose preseason back injury undercut his chances of making the initial roster; rookie fullback-tight end Ben Mason, another fifth-round pick who made a limited impact in camp; wide receiver Jaylon Moore, who impressed during the Ravens’ surge of injuries at the position; defensive back Nigel Warrior, who made a late push after taking on cornerback duties; and rookie kicker Jake Verity, whose two missed kicks in the preseason finale Saturday might have cost him a Week 1 job.

The Ravens on Tuesday cut quarterback Trace McSorley, scrambling against the New Orleans Saints during a preseason game Aug. 14.

Also released were rookie running back Nate McCrary, rookie offensive tackles Adrian Ealy and Foster Sarell, rookie tight end Tony Poljan, wide receiver Binjimen Victor, rookie defensive tackle Jovan Swann and outside linebacker Chris Smith.

Some will be back in Owings Mills by week’s end. After the waiver claim period ends at 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Ravens can form their 16-man practice squad. Of the 16 spots, up to six can be used on players with more than two accrued NFL seasons. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, teams are still allowed to promote two players from their practice squad to create a 55-man roster on game days.

Inside linebacker Otaro Alaka, wide receiver Deon Cain and defensive tackle Aaron Crawford were waived with an injury designation, meaning they’re subject to waiver claims but will revert to the Ravens’ IR if unclaimed. From there, the team can either keep them on IR or release them outright with an injury settlement.

“I feel like [cut-down day] is hard, but the point is that you have to do everything that you can do to make the team, and once you do that, you should be able to just live with the fact that you put everything on the line,” running back Gus Edwards, who was cut as an undrafted rookie, said Tuesday. “I think we’ve had a great camp. A lot of guys showed that they can play in this league, and they can make plays when their name is called upon. I’m just excited, because I feel like a lot of good things are going to come out of this team.”

The Ravens’ 2021 roster construction bucked recent trends under DeCosta. The team has just two quarterbacks on its season-opening roster for the first time since Jackson was drafted, though McSorley could return on the practice squad. The Ravens, one of the NFL’s most run-heavy offenses, also kept seven wide receivers — partly to protect their investment in young players, partly as a safeguard against injuries.


On defense, team officials settled on five defensive linemen and four inside linebackers, one shy of their typical allocation at both positions. That freed up space for six outside linebackers, even after the Ravens signed free agent Justin Houston early in camp. In the secondary, where injuries have ravaged the team in recent years, the Ravens kept 11 defensive backs.

DeCosta’s work is far from over, with the team expected to remain active on the waiver wire. But after a grueling month-plus of camp and preseason games, the Ravens know the 53-man roster they’ll take into their Sept. 13 season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders — or at least some close approximation of it.

Here’s a full look at the initial 53-man roster:

Quarterback (2)

  • Lamar Jackson
  • Tyler Huntley

Running back (3)

  • Gus Edwards
  • Ty’Son Williams
  • Justice Hill

Wide receiver (7)

  • Sammy Watkins
  • Marquise “Hollywood” Brown
  • Rashod Bateman
  • Miles Boykin
  • Devin Duvernay
  • James Proche II
  • Tylan Wallace

Tight end/fullback (4)

  • Mark Andrews
  • Nick Boyle
  • Josh Oliver
  • Patrick Ricard

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Offensive line (9)

  • Ronnie Stanley
  • Ben Powers
  • Bradley Bozeman
  • Kevin Zeitler
  • Alejandro Villanueva
  • Tyre Phillips
  • Ben Cleveland
  • Patrick Mekari
  • Trystan Colon

Defensive line (5)

  • Calais Campbell
  • Brandon Williams
  • Derek Wolfe
  • Justin Madubuike
  • Broderick Washington

Outside linebacker (5)

  • Justin Houston
  • Tyus Bowser
  • Odafe Oweh
  • Jaylon Ferguson
  • Daelin Hayes

Inside linebacker (4)

  • Patrick Queen
  • Malik Harrison
  • Chris Board
  • Kristian Welch

Cornerback (6)

  • Marlon Humphrey
  • Marcus Peters
  • Tavon Young
  • Jimmy Smith
  • Anthony Averett
  • Chris Westry

Safety (5)

  • Chuck Clark
  • DeShon Elliott
  • Brandon Stephens
  • Geno Stone
  • Ar’Darius Washington

Specialist (3)

  • Justin Tucker
  • Sam Koch
  • Nick Moore