Ravens Still Retain Rights to Ricky Williams; Anthony Allen Ready to Step-Up

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 01: Chris Crocker #42, Michael Johnson #93 and Thomas Howard #53 of the Cincinnati Bengals tackle Ricky Williams #34 of the Baltimore Ravens during their game at Paul Brown Stadium on January 1, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Ravens defeated the Bengals 24-16. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)

Although it may be "old news", one little snippet of Baltimore Ravens news slipped past virtually un-heard over the past couple of weeks lost amongst the scouting combine and the impending start of free agency, not to mention "BountyGate" too. According to reports, the Ravens have placed running back Ricky Williams on their reserve/retired list.

Placing Williams on the reserve/retired list allows the Ravens the right to retain him should he decide to un-retire. Williams is still under contract for the upcoming season but this roster move allows the Ravens to retain his rights while also clearing his salary of $1.5 million and his roster bonus of $50,000 off of the books. Though he is technically still under contract, these salary and bonus numbers will not affect the Ravens’ overall salary cap this off-season.

Williams, who has proven flighty and unpredictable over his 11-year career, could always consider a return to football, especially if he wanted to take another crack at a Super Bowl run with the Ravens who have proven to be yearly contenders. Surely he has at least thought about taking another go-around simply because a Super Bowl win would be the cherry-on-top of his stellar time as an NFL running back. Williams currently resides 26th overall on the NFL’s all-time rushing yards list with 10,009 yards.

(After the "Jump", read what head coach John Harbaugh said about Williams’ potential return and see what 2nd year RB Anthony Allen has to say about being ready for full-time NFL action.)

While the Ravens have decided to retain the rights to Williams, it appears that the team doesn’t believe Williams will be returning to football after his retirement announcement last month. Here’s what Harbaugh had to say on the matter at the NFL scouting combine:

"I have to admit, I was very supportive of him on whichever way he wanted to go, but I felt like he'd call me back in a day or two and he'd change his mind because that's a big decision. But he didn't, he was very firm on it."

Of course, there is still plenty of time between now and the start of training camps and organized team activities for Williams to change his mind, but at this time it seems that Williams will be moving on from football for the second time now. Surely Ray Rice will be the one most upset about the seemingly final decision by Williams to retire from football altogether as he believes that Williams was one of the best things to happen to him during his 4-year career:

"I was a big fan of Ricky before we were teammates, but being around him this year is the best thing that happened to me in my NFL career. As a young player, you need to be around a guy who knows what he is doing, and Ricky was tremendous to learn from. The way he took care of his body and the way he prepared, he always showed that he is a true professional. This past season with him is a year I will never forget. I had the best year with him beside me, and that was no accident."

Williams proved to be a valuable asset to the Ravens this season as Rice’s primary back-up. He filled the offense’s need for a big, bruising, power running back which proved worthwhile in the latter portions of the season where opposing defenses did everything in their power to shut-down Rice.

On the flip side of the Ravens’ running back situation, 2nd year pro Anthony Allen believes that he’s ready to step-up into the starting rotation. Allen, a power-back by nature, seems like a great fit for the Ravens and their need for bruiser behind the smaller, shifter Rice. Allen could prove to become a solid option in short-yardage and goal-line situations. While Allen has yet to show much at the NFL level, he believes he’s ready to step in and become Rice’s full-time backup:

"I’m just thankful that the coaches are showing that they trust me and that they want to see me go out there and make some plays. I just want to go out there and ball. I’m ready to go out there and make some plays and have some fun."

It would appear that the coaches and front office believes that Allen can be "the guy" as well. Ozzie Newsome likened the situation to that of tight ends, Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson, when they stepped up in place for the long-time Ravens veteran, Todd Heap. Newsome explained:

"It’s almost like having those two young tight ends last year and having a feeling that those guys could play for us."

Hopefully Ozzie Newsome is right with this decision and trusts his gut to allow Allen to become the #2 running back. Allen certainly has the physical tools that fit the Ravens’ needs. Standing at 6-0 230 lbs., Allen is a big-back with the strength, power, and burst to be the front-runner to become a long-term solution as Rice’s backup. Not to mention if Allen pans out as the solution behind Rice, the team won’t be forced to spend big bucks this off-season on a free agent running back.

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