You look at the Ravens Final 53 going into Week One and you say to yourself, gee, they really went young on this edition. And you wonder if they are rolling the dice on a 5-11 or an 11-5 outcome?
The Ravens kept 12 rookies on their 53-man roster, which ushers in a new wave of youth. Head coach John Harbaugh told them in a team meeting Monday to not get too happy.
“I told them today, ‘You’re not on scholarship.’ You didn’t just sign the scholarship papers – that’s not the way it works,” Harbaugh said. “You’re day-to-day, and you have to perform every single day. So my hope is that their intention is to be the best football player they can be every single day and help us win games on Sundays. That’s why they’re here.”
Here are the Final 53 as of September 3, 2018:
|49||LB||6-2||229||23||R||North Dakota State|
|24||CB||6-0||210||32||11||Grand Valley State|
|99||OLB||6-3||261||26||3||Grand Valley State|
|98||DT||6-1||336||29||6||Missouri Southern State|
And the Practice Squad:
|45||FB||5-11||248||22||R||German Football League|
|65||G||6-4||330||24||2||San Diego State|
Giving certain 4-year veterans the boot caused some anguish for Harbaugh, and DT Carl Davis was the most difficult cut of all:
No player released Saturday had more interest from around the league than Ravens defensive tackle Carl Davis. According to ESPN’s Field Yates, four teams submitted waiver claims for Davis and the Cleveland Browns won.
A 2015 third-round pick who started nine games last season, Davis was beaten out by some younger defensive linemen, including second-year defensive end Chris Wormley and rookie seventh-round defensive tackle Zach Sieler.
Patrick Ricard’s improvement as a defender (he mostly played fullback last year) also made Davis more expendable. The Ravens kept seven defensive linemen, including Ricard, and Davis was a more expensive option as he was in his fourth year of his contract.
“It was just a numbers deal,” Harbaugh said. “Carl’s definitely good enough to play for us. I talked to Carl – we had a great talk. He’s really good about it. He loved it here, he had his best camp – you know he’s been hurt the past two years.”
“I’m not thrilled that he’s now in Cleveland and we have to play against him twice a year,” Harbaugh said of Davis. “But kudos to Cleveland. They’ve taken a number of our D-linemen.”
Another tough cut was this guy:
Veteran linebacker Albert McClellan was one of the Ravens’ most respected team leaders for a long time. He’s one of the franchise’s best special teams players ever.
Thus, releasing the 32-year-old veteran was perhaps the most emotionally tough decision. McClellan, who first came to the Ravens as an undrafted rookie in 2011, missed last season because of a torn ACL and was beat out by undrafted rookie linebacker Chris Board this summer.
“Oh gosh … I think you mentioned [about] how tough it must be, and it was,” Harbaugh said to a reporter. “But then Albert made it good. Albert was great.”
“We’ve been through a lot together, all of us with Albert and the coaches and everything. [There] doesn’t need to be a lot said – it’s understood the reasons why. There’s no doubt that he can still play.”
Harbaugh didn’t rule out the possibility of McClellan returning to the Ravens down the road this season, and said, “I’m sure he’ll be playing somewhere this year.”
So in the grand scheme of things, the Ravens are betting on cheap controllable youth. Good luck with that! But this is what happens when a franchise runs out of salary cap space. You are now at the mercy of Peter Pan in an AFC North division which is bringing Captain Hook and a bunch of veteran alligators to battle.