The Ravens are parting ways with defensive tackle Willie Henry Jr., outside linebacker Shane Ray, wide receiver Michael Floyd and nine other players as they move toward finalizing their season-opening 53-man roster.
Henry’s exit Friday was unexpected. He entered training camp as the team’s top interior pass-rushing threat, but his production waned during the preseason. In four games, he had just one tackle and one quarterback pressure. Henry played deep into the Ravens’ preseason finale Thursday night against the Washington Redskins; his 32 snaps were the most by a Ravens defensive lineman. Asked about his extensive participation, coach John Harbaugh said, “He just needed to work, you know. He didn’t play that much last year," having suffered an umbilical hernia and season-ending herniated disk.
The 2016 fourth-round pick had shown promise despite being limited to 17 games over three injury-plagued seasons, finishing with 3½ sacks two years ago. While the Ravens still intend to release Henry, who was due $720,000 in the final year of his rookie contract, the team reportedly will hold off on doing so until Saturday, meaning he could be traded. Henry’s departure could open a roster spot for rookie defensive tackle Gerald Willis or second-year defensive end Zach Sieler, both of whom also struggled in the preseason.
“The two big guys [Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams] in the middle have shown great push in the preseason games and also out here in the one-on-ones, and then Pat Ricard has come on pretty well over the past couple preseason games,” defensive end Chris Wormley said Tuesday of the team’s interior pass rush. "So I think there’s going to be a great rotation of three, four, five guys that are going to be in the middle and getting that pressure that we need up the middle.”
Released Friday was Ray, 26, a former first-round pick of the Denver Broncos. He played just 23 defensive snaps for the Ravens in their preseason finale and had just half a sack in four games. The Ravens will likely take five outside linebackers into Week 1, and with the addition of rookie Jaylon Ferguson and the emergence of Pernell McPhee, Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams, there was no space in the team’s edge-rusher picture. Ray is owed just $200,000, his signing bonus from the one-year deal he signed with the Ravens in May.
Floyd’s roster prospects had improved after a strong performance last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, but the 29-year-old was released a day after not playing in the preseason finale. The emergence of second-year receiver Jaleel Scott also made a spot for Floyd on the 53-man roster increasingly unlikely. His one-year deal did not include a signing bonus.
The Ravens also announced Friday that quarterback Joe Callahan, wide receivers Jaylen Smith and Joe Horn Jr., long snapper Matthew Orzech, linebacker Silas Stewart, guards Patrick Vahe and Isaiah Williams, tackle Darrell Williams and kicker Elliott Fry had been waived. Because Ray and Floyd are vested veterans, they do not have to pass through waivers.
With the roster moves, not including Henry’s, the Ravens are down to 79 players on their 90-man roster. The deadline for cuts is 4 p.m. Saturday.
“I certainly feel we have more candidates for spots than we have spots, there’s no question about that being our challenge," Harbaugh said Thursday. "It’ll come down to what’s best for the team and the big picture. You know sometimes it’s depth, sometimes it’s fit, so we’ll have to see how it goes. I think there’s a number of guys deserving of making the team.”