This final round of roster cuts got the Ravens down to their requisite 53, not including their practice squad moves, but there were casualties that will give this team a very different look than in past seasons. The drama of Troy Smith is now officially behind this team, and he is welcome now to look in Cleveland or anywhere else for a potential starting job down the road. The hope and disappointment that followed the enigmatic Demetrius Williams through years of injuries and ineffectiveness is also over after failing to impress even when the Ravens were devoid of receivers. On the other hand, receivers Marcus Smith and Justin Harper (the latter on the practice squad) still remain a couple years after flashing just enough talent to make them late-round and free agent pickups of this team. I wanted to take a moment to look at these moves and more as the Ravens gear up for Week 1.
Troy Smith- As most readers know by now, I am a huge Michigan fan and was devastated when the Ravens signed Troy Smith and gradually got used to the idea of him possibly starting for the team after Joe Flacco was drafted. Well, Smith came down with an odd case of tonsillitis and after that, it was Flacco’s team. Smith gave the Ravens a running dimension that they don’t have with Flacco or Marc Bulger (Joe is capable of running, but his long looping strides don’t compare with Smith’s quick change of direction), but I think he made his bed when he demanded a trade that never came. If the Ravens need another running QB they can find one down the line, it wasn’t like Smith was going to start for the Ravens anytime soon.
Williams out, David Reed in- The hype around rookie 5th round choice David Reed is actually very similar to the hype that came around Demetrius Williams when he was selected in the 4th round back in 2006. Granted, the hope for Williams was that his physical gifts could translate into a more polished product whereas the hope for Reed is that his polished route-running will make him a reliable option in the future but that he lacks some of the burst of the upper echelon wideouts. However, I think the Ravens made the call that they would rather take the receiver with greater upside, and Williams has had his chances. It is a shame he was injured so much during his time with the Ravens, but I suppose the organization could wait another year for talent to turn into results.
Shayne Graham loses out to Billy Cundiff- I understand that we are not privy to the goings on in training camp or how each kicker looked during practice, but I am having trouble believing that Graham is the worse option here. Cundiff might have made 5% more than Graham in practices this summer, but he has been much worse during the season in his career. There is a reason why Cundiff is a journeyman kicker, and there is a reason Shayne Graham was with Cincinnati for all those years. Billy Cundiff has a much more shaky track record than Graham does. Perhaps at 33 he was losing something, as his percentage of kicks made dropped over the past 3 seasons, but even last season’s mark of 82.1% would have been better than what Cundiff did last season with the Ravens (70.2%). Cundiff has only made 73% of his attempts for his career, and I have trouble trusting his track record when the game is on the line.
Edgar Jones Stays, Antwan Barnes Traded to Eagles- Edgar Jones, the sometime tight end, sometime linebacker special teamer is never going to start for the Ravens, and while he is versatile and can be a great presence in practice, I didn’t think he would make the group of linebackers to stay on this roster. Room was made for him when Antwaan Barnes, who has been off-and-on discussed as a possible starter alongside Ray Lewis, was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for an undisclosed pick. I hope the pick is better than the 4th round choice the Ravens used to select him, but I won’t be holding my breath. To be honest, the move puzzles me. For a 4th or 5th round pick (optimistic) it would be more advantageous to keep a potential starter on the roster and cut Edgar Jones. With Daniel Ellerbe, Tavares Gooden, and probable starter Jameel McClain rounding out the middle linebackers it is unlikely that Jones will see much playing time, but I would rather have Barnes’ potential on the roster.