The Ravens cut into their roster decisions Friday by letting go of 18 players, including wide receiver-returner Keenan Reynolds, center Jeremy Zuttah and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, and putting six others on injured reserve.
They held off on their toughest decisions until Saturday, when their roster will need to be trimmed to the NFL-mandated 53 by 4 p.m. The Ravens currently have 67 players on their roster after trading a 2018 conditional seventh-round draft pick Friday to the Arizona Cardinals for veteran guard-center Tony Bergstrom.
None of Friday’s decisions were especially surprising. Reynolds, a sentimental favorite after his record-setting career as Navy’s quarterback, had shown some improvement since being selected by the Ravens in the sixth round last year and transitioning to a receiver-returner role.
But it never translated to the games, as he was held without a catch in limited opportunities this preseason and also lost a fumble on a punt return in the Ravens’ 14-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints in their preseason finale Thursday night.
Zuttah, 31, was the Ravens’ starting center for the previous three seasons before he was traded to the San Francisco 49ers in March. The 49ers released him during training camp, and the Ravens, who lost Alex Lewis and Nico Siragusa to season-ending injuries early in camp and John Urschel to a surprise late-July retirement, picked him back up. Zuttah’s second stint with the team lasted all of two weeks.
A day after he started against the Saints, Zuttah was let go and the Ravens acquired Bergstrom, a 31-year-old joining his fourth team in three seasons, to provide depth along the interior of their offensive line. Bergstrom, a third-round pick by the Oakland Raiders in 2012, has made four career starts, one at right guard and three at center.
The Ravens also terminated the contracts of five other vested veterans: quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, running back Bobby Rainey, wide receiver Griff Whalen, cornerback Trevin Wade and, maybe most notably, tight end Larry Donnell. Donnell offered a good red-zone target for a team thin on big and physical receivers, but he struggles as a blocker and doesn’t provide much on special teams.
Along with Reynolds and Taliaferro, whose transition to fullback this summer never gained traction, the Ravens waived 10 others: wide receiver C.J. Board; offensive linemen De’Ondre Wesley, Jarell Broxton, Roubbens Joseph, Derrick Nelson and Jarrod Pughsley; outside linebacker Randy Allen; safety Otha Foster; punter Kenny Allen; and long snapper Taybor Pepper.
Wesley, who was in his third season with the organization, was somewhat of a surprise cut. The Ravens lack depth at offensive tackle, and Wesley’s release makes them even thinner.
The Ravens completed their first day of extensive roster moves by placing running back Kenneth Dixon (knee), wide receiver Tim White (thumb), offensive linemen Alex Lewis (shoulder) and Siragusa (knee), linebacker Albert McClellan (knee) and cornerback Tavon Young (knee) on injured reserve. Because all six were placed on IR before 4 p.m. Sunday, they are not eligible to return for the 2017 season.
How do the Ravens create 14 more roster spots?
Quarterback Josh Woodrum, wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo, tight end Ryan Malleck, offensive linemen Stephane Nembot and Maurquice Shakir, linebackers Brennen Beyer, Boseko Lokombo and Donald Payne and defensive backs Robertson Daniel, Brandon Boykin and Reggie Porter are considered long shots to make the team. If all 11 are left off the 53-man roster, the Ravens would need to make only three more moves.
That’s where it could get tricky. On offense, the Ravens still have questions at running back, wide receiver and tight end. Their top three backs are seemingly set with Terrance West (Towson University, Northwestern High), Buck Allen and Danny Woodhead. What’s unclear is whether the Ravens will keep a designated fullback in Ricky Ortiz. If they don’t, that would signify a willingness to use a tight end or defensive lineman Patrick Ricard as a lead blocker. It’s also uncertain whether the Ravens can find room for undrafted free-agent back Taquan Mizzell, who had a nice preseason.
Mizzell said after Thursday’s preseason finale that he was content knowing he did all he could do to make the team. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be nervous as he awaited the Ravens’ decision.
“This is my dream right here,” he said. “It’s kind of crazy, but we’ll see what happens.”
The Ravens still have seven wide receivers on their roster and might keep only five, meaning Michael Campanaro (River Hill), Chris Moore, Chris Matthews and Adeboyejo are likely competing for only one or two spots. The Ravens also will have to decide whether they need to keep four tight ends, which could determine Vince Mayle’s chances of making the team.
On defense, the Ravens’ toughest calls are along the line and in the secondary. The Ravens have a logjam along the defensive front and probably won’t be able to keep all eight of their linemen. That means that Carl Davis, Willie Henry and Ricard, who had a strong summer, might not all make the team.
“That’s something I think about every day — wake up in the morning thinking about it. I am trying to make the team, so is everybody else,” said Davis, who had an interception and made a compelling roster case with his play against the Saints. “At the end of the day, you just have to go out there and play football and give it your all. I just kind of think like, ‘Hey, it’s not really in my hands.’ Whatever choices that coach [John Harbaugh] and the GMs make is fine.”
The team’s decisions at cornerback are compromised by injuries to Jaylen Hill, Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady, Boykin and Daniel. Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr and 2017 first-round pick Marlon Humphrey are entrenched as the top three corners, and Hill, the undrafted rookie who had a fabulous preseason, seems likely to fill the fourth spot if he’s healthy. But there are questions beyond them.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article had Thaddeus Lewis' name incorrect.